New Castle rallies, topples North Hills
New Castle (62) Vs. North Hills (44)
Jan 25, 2014
PITTSBURGH — Not many teams could win a basketball game by 18 points after struggling offensively and playing without two senior starters.
The New Castle High boys aren’t most teams.
The visiting Red Hurricane faced adversity head-on and survived last night, beating North Hills 62-44 in WPIAL Section 3-AAAA play. The ’Canes played without seniors Stew Allen and Jake McPhatter.
“I’ve said it before we’ll take any win we can get,” senior Malik Hooker said. “I’m sure the rest of veterans on the team will say the same thing, but we won’t accept this the next time we step on the floor. If that’s Hampton or North Allegheny, we lose that game. We have to step it up for our next game.
“Stew and Jake are a big part of our team. You need every person on your bench to win the game. Even if they’re not in the game, we need them there to support us. We expect guys like Micah Fulena and Robert Natale to step up when they get in and that’s what they did.”
Blundo said McPhatter is on an official visit to Ball State, where he’s already verbally committed to play football next fall. Allen is slated to return to practice after missing the past few games due to injury.
“We certainly didn’t want to hold Jake back from that,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “That’s a special thing for him. We’ll have him back on Monday. We’re hoping to have Stew back on Monday as well. He’s getting there. He’s real close. We instantly get better when those two are on the floor.”
The ’Canes (10-0, 16-0) struggled to find any offense in the first half, making just 6 of 27 field goals and missing all 13 3-pointers they attempted.
The Indians (3-7, 9-9) captured an early 9-2 lead, but trailed 12-9 after a 10-0 New Castle run to end the first quarter. North Hills retook the lead midway through the second quarter on a Shawndale Jones jumper and grabbed a 22-19 advantage at halftime on the strength of a 11-2 run to close the half.
“We had clean looks,” Blundo said. “They were wide open, but the ball just didn’t go in. For 70, 80 games, that hasn’t happened to us too much. We’ve shot it really, really well for three years. There are going to be nights where your shots don’t go in and this was one of them.”
New Castle opened the third quarter on a tear, making six of its first seven shots and grabbing a 23-22 lead on a Levar Ware layup. The ’Canes extended their margin to 35-27 on Drew Allen’s second 3-pointer of the period.
Another Drew Allen 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run to start the fourth quarter and pushed New Castle’s lead to 44-31. The lead grew to as many as 20 with the ’Canes making all eight free throws in the closing two minutes.
“We came out and weren’t really focused,” Ware said. “In the second half, we were more focused and we were determined to make more shots. Our energy was better once we started making our shots.”
Hooker led New Castle with a game-high 23 points and added eight rebounds and four steals. Drew Allen added 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Ware finished with a 10-point, 12-rebound, four-assist effort.
“We didn’t come out focused and weren’t ready to play,” Hooker said. “This is what happens when you’re not focused and ready to play. In the second half, we pushed our intensity to a whole new level. Our big man was finishing and we were finishing as a team. We were doing stuff fundamentally sound like coach tells us to. It started to work.”