New Castle cruises past Butler
New Castle (74) Vs. Butler (56)
Dec 14, 2013
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
The offense was hitting on all cylinders and the defense was suffocating.
It was a good way to start section play for the New Castle High basketball team.
The Red Hurricane built a 19-point first-quarter lead and cruised to a 74-56 WPIAL Section 3-AAAA win over Butler at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
The two-time defending WPIAL champion ’Canes ran their home winning streak to 28 straight and their section winning streak to 28.
“There are very few things about this basketball game that I’m not pleased about,” ’Canes coach Ralph Blundo said. “I thought we played well.
“The only thing we cared about was beating Butler to open section action and we did that.”
New Castle (1-0 section, 3-0 overall) led by 39 points late in the third quarter and just missed kicking the game into the mercy rule by a point. Butler (0-1, 2-2) closed the game on a 27-6 run.
“For two-and-a-half quarters, it was a 40-point ballgame,” Blundo said. “I thought that we played well and I thought that we were efficient. I thought we guarded extraordinarily well and I thought we were extraordinarily tough throughout the course of the game.
“We had one turnover in the first half. For about 20 minutes of that basketball game, it was a 40-point win for New Castle.”
Malik Hooker, a 6-foot-1 senior guard/forward and Ohio State football recruit, netted 12 of his game-high 27 points in the first quarter as the ’Canes grabbed a 25-9 lead after the first period.
“I think he’s what a big-time Division I athlete looks like,” Blundo said. “He has great and natural ability. More importantly than that, he’s a fabulous kid.”
Hooker collected a team-high 11 rebounds with five assists and four steals as well. He was honored before the game for surpassing the 1,000-point plateau on Saturday in a win over Perry Traditional Academy. Hooker now has 1,028 career points.
“I think I played decent,” Hooker said. “It was other guys forcing turnovers on defense and getting me easy ones early. It was all my teammates playing great defense.
“I think it was more of lanes opening up. If you faceguard Anthony Richards, that’s leaving more room open for other guys to drive the lanes. It gives us more ground to play with.”
Butler turned the ball over 16 times, including 10 in the first half as New Castle coasted to a 48-24 lead at the break.
“I felt our defense came out stronger than usual,” Hooker said. “I don’t know what it was. We just came out and challenged ourself to see what we could do. I feel our defense won us this game.”
Stew Allen tossed in 13 markers for the ’Canes and Robert Natale added 12. Allen scored New Castle’s first four points of the game on tough inside shots down low.
“This was a great week for Stew,” Blundo said. “He received offers from Youngstown State and Duquesne for football. He was able to maintain his focus.
“It just shows you how much he cares about his teammates. Certainly, his future is important to him. But he’s a mature enough young man that he’s able to handle his business during the day with the coaches, but at the same time when practice starts, he’s ready. Obviously tonight, he was really good, too.”
New Castle plays the second game of three in five days at 7:30 p.m. today against Poland (Ohio) in the United Way Holiday High School Basketball Classic at Poland High.
The ’Canes cap the stretch with a section matchup at Pine-Richland (0-1, 2-2) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“We find the time to be prepared,” Blundo said of the stretch. “We get in there and watch film. We don’t allow our kids to go in there unprepared. It’s important for us.
“We haven’t looked at Pine-Richland yet, but we’ll game plan accordingly for them.”