New Castle withstands NA
New Castle (64) Vs. North Allegheny (48)
Feb 05, 2014
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
WEXFORD — Not much seemed to rattle the New Castle High boys basketball team through its first 19 games.
Make that 20 — and counting.
The Red Hurricane overcame a strong North Allegheny second-quarter surge and posted a 64-48 road win last night in a WPIAL Section 3-AAAA encounter.
New Castle (13-0 section, 20-0 overall) wrapped up an outright section championship with the triumph. It’s the program’s fourth-straight section title. The squad has claimed two-straight WPIAL championships as well.
“One of the things I just mentioned to the guys is for them to enjoy it,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “Unfortunately, there are teams that go decades without winning a section title and they’ve won four. I told them to pat themselves on the back and they’ve worked too hard not to enjoy the successes. Hopefully, they’ll do that.”
The ’Canes, ranked first in the WPIAL in Class AAAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and second in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, pushed their section winning streak to 40. New Castle, which has won 76 of its last 78 games overall, extended its regular-season win streak to 66. The team’s last section loss came at Blackhawk, 58-54, on Feb. 8, 2011.
Blundo’s troops had to earn the victory. After rolling to a 21-7 lead, the Tigers (10-3, 16-3) roared back for a 14-0 run to knot the game at 21-all with 1:23 left in the first half.
“We haven’t had that happen to us, but it’s a credit to North Allegheny,” said Blundo, who has a 96-10 mark in his four years leading New Castle. Overall, his coaching record is 122-12. “I thought they made some great shots. I thought they played really, really hard. They didn’t have many good looks, quite honestly, but they made some tough, contested shots. I credit them for that.”
New Castle limited North Allegheny, ranked sixth in the state, to three points in the first quarter. The Tigers, who upset Hampton, 68-62 on Friday, were shut out for the first 4:30 and converted only one of their 10 field goals in the opening stanza. But, the ’Canes knew that failure rate wouldn’t last.
“They are a good team, so, at some point, those shots are going to go down,” Blundo said. “Giving up 48 points to a team that’s averaging 73 points per game like North Allegheny is — we’ll take it.”
Sensing the game might get out of reach quickly in the second quarter, North Allegheny’s players ratcheted up their offensive intensity.
“I just thought we were more aggressive,” NA coach Dave DeGregorio said. “I thought we started out flat and got down. Then, we got more aggressive offensively and moved the ball a little bit better, got in the paint a little better and created some looks.”
The ’Canes withstood the Tigers’ blitz.
“Anytime we play North Allegheny, we know it’s going to be a battle. They don’t ever quit. They come out and they play really hard. That’s why we love playing them, because you have to grind it out,” New Castle senior guard Anthony Richards said. “In that run, they made a couple shots and we made a couple mistakes. The way they play and the way we play, a 14-0 run can happen in an instant. A couple 3s here and a couple 3s there, it can happen like that. Coach Blundo called a timeout and we regrouped and we got it back like that.”
Once North Allegheny tied the score at 21, Blundo called a timeout to talk to his troops. But, he did not have to rally them.
“It was just a timeout just to break the action. When you’ve had guys for four years, you don’t have to say a lot. We just talked about what we were going to do out of the next timeout,” he said. “Credit my guys, I think they are really good at not being affected by the emotions of the game — good or bad. We’re able to get to the next play. I could probably go longer without a timeout during a run by the other team more than most coaches because I trust my guys; they don’t get flustered. I think that’s pretty clear.”
When play resumed, Malik Hooker’s hoop restored New Castle’s lead. He produced a turnover and dished the ball to Richards, whose layup gave the guests a 25-21 lead in the final minute. The Tigers’ David Haus cut the deficit to 25-23 just before halftime.
The ’Canes took command to start the second half. Richards swished a 3-pointer and, after an NA miss, Drew Allen dialed in with a 3-ball from downtown. The Tigers called a timeout and DeGregorio was given a technical foul for arguing with an official. Richards swished both free throws. Stew Allen added a bucket to complete the 10-0 spree and New Castle posted a 35-23 advantage 2:13 into the third.
“That was huge,” Richards said. “Anytime you can come out of the gate and do that, it’s fantastic. That’s exactly what we want. The first four minutes, we want to get it going.”
New Castle carried a 12-point lead, 45-33, into the fourth. The ’Canes went 9 of 11 at the foul line in the final stanza to help solidify the win.
Hooker led all players with 19 points. Stew Allen and Richards finished with 13, while Drew Allen had 12 for the ’Canes, who close out section play Friday at home against Hampton.
Cole Constantino paced North Allegheny with 15 points.