New Castle opens section play with win over Beaver
New Castle (68) Vs. Beaver (59)
Dec 13, 2014
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
BEAVER — The New Castle High boys basketball team climbed back into the win column last night.
Balanced scoring and defense paved the way for the Red Hurricane in a 68-59 WPIAL Section 2-AAA road win over Beaver. The visitors boasted four players in double figures, while forcing 22 turnovers.
It’s the 42nd consecutive section win for New Castle (1-0 section, 3-1 overall). The ’Canes had their run of 33 straight wins overall, 70 consecutive victories in the regular season, 38 decisions in a row at home and 49 straight over WPIAL opponents snapped in an 87-67 nonsection home loss to Hampton on Tuesday.
“I think it was good,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said of his team’s preparation leading up to last night’s game. “It’s one thing to lose a home game. It’s another thing to lose and then have a section game on the road against a team that always plays well at their place. I’m pleased with the win.
“I thought that the kids played hard. They made some mistakes, some youthful mistakes but I think it’s stuff that we can fix. Certainly I think we can defend better than we did (last night). I still see a lot of upside. We’re still making a lot of the same mistakes. We’ll just keep correcting them until we’re not making those controllable mistakes.”
Geno Stone, a sophomore, paced the ’Canes with a career-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He added seven rebounds.
“It was a hard loss for us,” Stone said of the Hampton setback. “We wanted to start a new winning streak and hopefully we can keep this one going.
“We wanted to come in fired up at practice on Wednesday and we came in determined to work hard.”
New Castle started slow and trailed 14-7. But the ’Canes settled down and went on a 22-2 run for a 29-16 lead with 4:46 to go in the half. Robert Natale buried a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the first quarter to put the guests up for good at 15-14 in the midst of the run.
“I attribute much of that to Beaver,” Blundo said of the Bobcats’ quick start. “I thought Beaver played well out of the gate. They really shot it well. To our guys’ credit, they responded and made a run.”
New Castle forced 13 of the Bobcats’ turnovers in the first half, most of which coming during the 22-2 spree.
“The difference in the game was the run in the second quarter that New Castle made,” Beaver coach Andy Podbielski said. “They got up and I had to burn two quick timeouts. Next thing you know, you’re down (13) to a team like that.
“I knew our guys would compete and we’d be right there. We could never get back over that hump, though.”
Beaver quickly regrouped to cut the deficit to 32-27 at the break.
“I was more impressed with Beaver’s ability to respond to the run than I was with our own particular run,” Blundo said. “They responded well to our run, 22-2 is a substantial run. They made a couple of shots and kept it close at halftime. It was definitely a good run we had.”
The Bobcats got as close as two points three different times in the third quarter and three points twice in the final frame.
New Castle was 14 of 27 at the foul line, compared to 16 of 25 for Beaver. The ’Canes were 12 of 19 at the line in the fourth quarter and made enough late to seal the win.
“Our foul shooting was not very good,” Blundo said. “We did make them late and I’ll take that. We obviously have to be better at the foul line than we were today. We’ll work on it.”
Said Podbielski, a standout at Westminster College, “The foul shooting was shaky both ways. I don’t think that played a factor in the outcome of the game. They were both poor.”
Marcus Hooker followed Stone’s effort with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He contributed eight rebounds and six assists as well. Natale notched 13 points and rebounds, while Marquel Hooker, who is Marcus’ older brother, chipped in with 10 markers and a game-high 11 rebounds. He posted five steals and four assists as well.
Austin Saal paced the Bobcats with 16 points, including 14 in the second half.
New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts section rival Central Valley at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House. The Warriors’ football team dropped a 33-14 decision to Archbishop Wood in the PIAA Class AAAA championship game last night.
“They’re coming off a long football season and they’re playing Tuesday night,” Blundo said. “It should be a battle at our place, it always is when we play Central Valley.”