Hooker propels New Castle to rout of Butler
New Castle (75) Vs. Butler (48)
Jan 18, 2014
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
BUTLER — Ralph Blundo may have called the quickest timeout of his coaching career last night.

But, it was extremely effective.

The New Castle High bench boss didn’t like what he saw early on at Butler and let his Red Hurricane know about it. The players got the message loud and clear and rolled to a 75-48 win in a WPIAL Section 3-AAAA battle.

Blundo thought New Castle (8-0 section, 13-0 overall) lacked some focus and intensity from the start. After the Golden Tornado (1-7, 4-11) scored a quick bucket in transition to slice the deficit to 4-2 just 1:26 into the game, he yelled for the TO.

Distractions were there for the ’Canes, who posted a huge win over Hampton on Tuesday. They travel to Lower Merion High School in suburban Philadelphia today for a 7:30 p.m. battle. The Aces (6-5) posted a 67-63 win over the ’Canes in last year’s PIAA Class AAAA semifinals.

“It was very obvious to me that we were playing below standard. Unless you want to sit next to me, we need to play Red Hurricane basketball and they know what that means,” Blundo said. “I was a bit concerned. An away section game sandwiched between Hampton and the Lower Merion game, which our guys are really looking forward to. At all levels of sports, teams make the mistake of not being focused on the task at hand. That’s why I called the timeout so early. I wanted to make sure we were focused on what we had to accomplish.”

Blundo’s timeout resonated with senior Malik Hooker.

“I didn’t think his energy was what we wanted it to be. It was 4-2 at the time. He got things rolling after that,” Blundo said. “The line of playing hard is so fine. I really believe if you go one step below that line with the way we play, you can get exposed and not be effective. The flipside of that is, if you’re playing with intensity with really great athletes, you’re going to turn teams over.”

A pumped-up Hooker got New Castle rolling. He scored 14 of his game-high 30 points in the first quarter. He added seven more in the second to give him more points (21) than Butler (20) at halftime.
“When he called the timeout, I pretty much turned into a whole other player. When my intensity is going, everybody else’s gets going. When he told me that, I took offense to that because I am the leader of this team,” Hooker said. “My team was giving me the ball and I was getting an opportunity to finish.”

The energized ’Canes, ranked first in the WPIAL in Class AAAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, were never seriously challenged. They led 45-20 at halftime and 65-28 after three quarters. Jake McPhatter finished with 16 points, while Drew Allen added 12 and Levar Ware had nine. Anthony Richards contributed eight points.

New Castle pushed its section winning streak to 35. The ’Canes, who have won 69 of their last 71 games overall, saw their regular-season win streak improve to 59. They hope to keep that going against the Aces, a traditional eastern powerhouse, in the Kobe Bryant Classic. Bryant led Lower Merion to the 1996 PIAA Class AAAA championship. He donated money in 2010 to help the school build a new gym — Bryant Gymnasium, which is the venue for today’s fray.

“They are very good; they’ve won like six in a row. They are big and athletic,” Blundo said. “I felt like we probably needed to schedule a team of that caliber last year. I think it’ll serve us well moving forward. You just don’t see that type of length and athleticism out here. I wanted to make sure we took advantage of the opportunity. And, you know, that’s the last time we lost.”

New Castle begins its long bus trip at 6:30 a.m. The players are excited for it.

“On the way down there, we’ll have some team bonding and laugh and joke around. When we get on the court, all that is out of here and it’s us playing Red Hurricane basketball,” Hooker said. “We’ve been thinking about this since last year. That loss was a heartbreaker. Something like that, you never get rid of. We’re going to go down there, and take offense for that, too. Hopefully, (Blundo) doesn’t have to a call a timeout early and we come out on fire.”

(Email: ncsports@ncnewsonline.com)
Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 25 20 20 10 0 75
Butler 10 10 8 20 0 48
Box Scores
Micah Fulena 0 0-0 0
Anthony Richards 3 0-0 8
Malik Hooker 10 10-12 30
Jake McPhatter 6 2-3 16
Drew Allen 4 3-3 12
Levar Ware 4 1-2 9
Robert Natale 0 0-0 0
Gino DeMonaco 0 0-0 0
Marquel Hooker 0 0-0 0
Pat Minenok 0 0-0 0
Bryan Owens 0 0-0 0
Totals: 27 16-20 75

Keenan Krause 3 4-7 10
Nick Patten 6 0-1 12
Mark Gross 0 0-0 0
Rich Marnic 1 0-0 2
Justice Lewandowski 2 0-0 6
Andrew Paterno 1 3-4 6
Tyler Frederick 2 0-3 4
Eric Hindman 1 1-2 3
Damian Pickett 1 0-2 2
Kelley Kuharic 1 0-2 3
Totals: 18 8-21 48

NEW CASTLE 25 20 20 10 — 75
BUTLER 10 10 8 20 — 48

3-point goals — New Castle 5 (McPhatter 2, Richards 2, Allen 1), Butler 4 (Lewandowski 2, Paterno 1, Kuharic 1).
JV score: New Castle 76, Butler 75 (OT). High scorer: NC — Marquel Hooker 23, Robert Natale 14, Pat Minenok 12.
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