New Castle too strong for Shaler
New Castle (75) Vs. Shaler (45)
Feb 01, 2014
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
The New Castle High boys basketball team still has work to do.
It was evident in the quiet way they reacted to a pair of milestones last night at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
Anthony Richards surpassed the 1,000-point plateau just 5:12 into the game. And the Red Hurricane didn’t need much longer than that to put itself on the way to winning another section championship.
New Castle built a 16-point lead after one quarter and rolled to a 75-45 WPIAL Section 3-AAAA home win over Shaler. The victory also locked up at least a share of the section title for the ’Canes, their fourth in a row, because of North Allegheny’s 68-62 win over Hampton (10-2 section, 18-2 overall). The Tigers also own a 10-2 league mark along with 16-2 overall.
“These seniors can’t do any better than two losses in their career in section play to date,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “It’s just been a fabulous run for these seniors.
“I told them in practice earlier today that I hope you understand how special and how fun this has been. Continue to enjoy it. Keep working hard because this is the stretch run.”
The ’Canes (12-0, 19-0) are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 2 in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. New Castle, the two-time defending WPIAL champions, ran its home winning streak to 33 straight and their section winning streak to 39. The ’Canes, who have won 75 of their last 77 games overall, extended their regular-season win streak to 65.
Roman Catholic (16-3), located in Philadelphia, is the state’s top-ranked team in Class AAAA.
Richards, a 5-foot-8 senior guard and West Virginia Wesleyan recruit, needed just seven points to hit the milestone. He hit 1,000 points on the mark when he buried a 3-pointer — the 273rd of his career — with 2:48 to go in the first quarter. The trifecta pushed the ’Canes’ lead to 18-4 and they settled for a 22-6 buffer after the opening frame.
“I don’t know if I can describe what he means to the program. If there was a model of what I want a Red Hurricane to look like, in terms of the way that they approach the game and their teammates, it’s Anthony Richards,” Blundo said. “He is the perfect model, no one works harder and no one’s tougher. No one cares more about the team and is as selfless as him.
“For me, it’s just been a pleasure to coach him over the last four years. He’s been absolutely amazing. Really, forget the numbers. It’s everything else. He’s the first guy to practice. It’s meeting the standard that we have tried to put in place here to the highest level.”
Richards was 7 of 11 from the floor with six assists. He’s the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 278.
“It’s a great honor,” Richards said of scoring his 1,000th point. “I’ll trade every single one of them points for another WPIAL championship or a state championship any day of the week. That 1,000 points reflects more on my teammates and coaches because a player like me doesn’t get those points without being on great teams and having great teammates and coaches that put you in great situations to succeed.”
The Titans (1-11, 3-16) chipped away in the second quarter and closed to 31-21 with 2:52 to go in the half, but it was the closest the visitors would get the rest of the way. New Castle led 42-23 at the half and 56-34 at the end of three periods.
“I thought that we coasted a bit in the second quarter,” Blundo said. “We’ve done that a number of times this year against teams that have been outmanned against us.
“Game in and game out I’ve been pretty pleased with our effort for the most part. We did what I hoped we would do at the start and that was play to a standard, get us out of the gate and pretty much put the game out of reach.”
“We came out with great energy and focus early on,” Richards said.
Malik Hooker led all scorers with 24 points for the ’Canes on 10-of-15 shooting. He added 11 rebounds, seven steals, five blocks and four assists.
“Malik is extraordinary and electrifying,” Blundo said. “He’s humble and he’s really accepted all of the things that we try to preach here and I’m proud of everything he’s done.”
Stew Allen chipped in 11 points and seven boards for the winners.
Zach Weaver netted 15 points to lead the Titans.
New Castle returns to section action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at North Allegheny. The ’Canes won the first battle, 63-41. They can wrap up the section championship outright with a victory.
“They play well down there,” Blundo said. “We know what NA brings. We were spectacular that night up here. We’ll have to be spectacular again to beat them.”
“Winning the section title is great; it’s the best you can do,” Richards said. “This is a huge week coming up for us and we’re excited for it. We’re focused on NA and we’ll go from there.”