New Castle rolls past North Hills
New Castle (85) Vs. North Hills (49)
Dec 21, 2013
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
The New Castle High boys basketball team likes to start fast — and end with a win.
The Red Hurricane scored the first 15 points last night and breezed to an 85-49 WPIAL Section 3-AAAA win over North Hills at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
The ’Canes (3-0 section, 6-0 overall) scored the first 17 points Tuesday at Pine-Richland in a 93-57 verdict, while blitzing Butler 25-9 last week at home in the first quarter en route to a 74-56 home section win.
“We talk about the first four minutes of every game and the first four minutes out of halftime being critical,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “The first thing on our board for every game is a hard warmup. That’s important. We talk a lot about getting yourself ready and understanding how to prepare and get ready for a game that one half-hour before game time.”
New Castle, the two-time defending WPIAL champion, ran its home winning streak to 29 straight and its section winning streak to 30. The ’Canes, who have won 62 of their last 64 games overall, extended their regular-season win streak to 48.
The ’Canes settled for a 28-6 lead after one quarter. They forced 11 turnovers by the Indians in the frame. But New Castle was a little sluggish in the second quarter, outscoring North Hills (0-3, 3-4) 22-18 for a 50-24 halftime advantage.
“We just want to come out and lay it on them,” New Castle’s Anthony Richards said. “That’s what we’ve been doing.
“The second quarter the last couple of games, we haven’t been playing well. We can’t do that.”
Despite being in control at the break, Blundo wasn’t totally pleased.
“The defense was really good in the first quarter,” Blundo said. “I didn’t think it was great in the second quarter. Really, these last two games are mirror images of each other in terms of us getting out of the gate really strong and us being a bit complacent in the second quarter. That’s concerning to me.
“We try to pride ourselves on having great energy for 32 minutes. Not that other teams can’t play well because they have. I just think that we could play better in the second quarter.”
Malik Hooker, a senior and Ohio State football recruit, netted a game-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting. He added nine rebounds, nine steals and four assists. He scored 14 points in the second half.
“I feel that I can do a lot better,” Hooker said. “I came out sluggish.”
Said Blundo, “Malik is such a great athlete. He just has that ability to make plays. Once he’s in the right place all the time, with his athletic ability, he’ll be through-the-roof special.”
Hooker was presented with a framed photo after the game in honor of being named to the all-state football team on Thursday.
New Castle was 33 of 60 from the field, including 9 of 23 from behind the arc.
“We shot it well from the outside,” Blundo said. “When we’re guarding really well and shooting well from the perimeter is when we’re at our very best.”
Jake McPhatter followed Hooker’s effort with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Richards and Stew Allen both chipped in with 12 markers apiece.
Richards scored all of his points on first-half 3-pointers. He was honored before the game for breaking two records in the second game of the year — career 3-pointers and 3-pointers in a game (nine against Perry Traditional Academy).
Brandon Domenick held the career record for 3-pointers and Eddie Pagley held the mark for trifectas in a contest — six.
“Making five or six 3s is huge in a half for a team,” Richards said. “It’s more than just the points. It opens things up for everything else.
“The recognition (for the records) was nice. You don’t do this on your own. You don’t do it without great teammates.”
The ’Canes are beating the opposition by an average of 33.5 points a game.
“We knew we lost a lot,” Hooker said of the players lost to graduation. “We knew this was going to be a different year and a whole different team. We just have to step up and continue to play hard.”
Shawndale Jones tossed in 18 points to pace North Hills.
New Castle is off until 7:30 p.m. Friday when it meets former section rival Blackhawk at the C.J. Betters Holiday Tournament at CCBC.