’Canes roll into title game
New Castle (66) Vs. Valley (31)
Dec 30, 2014
The New Castle High boys basketball team showed no adverse affects from a holiday break.
The Red Hurricane never trailed, shot a high percentage and played strong defense last night.
It all added up to a 66-31 win over Valley in the opening round of the Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George Red Hurricane Christmas Classic at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House. It’s the fifth consecutive victory for New Castle (7-1), the three-time defending WPIAL champions and defending PIAA champs.
The ’Canes scored the game’s first five points and held a 23-14 advantage after the first quarter, their largest buffer to that point. New Castle was 26 of 39 from the field, including 6 of 14 from behind the arc.
“All I’m looking for is are we getting better. Are we improving?,” ’Canes coach Ralph Blundo said. “I thought we had two good days of practice and I thought we played a very average first half in a lot of ways. We obviously played a better second half.
“You always want to get out of the gate and we did a little bit, but then we kind of took our foot off the pedal. I think we had a couple of lapses there and to Valley’s credit, they made us pay in the first half.”
The Vikings (4-4) turned the ball over 24 times, while New Castle had just 10 turnovers.
“I thought the defense was much better in the second half,” Blundo said. “I didn’t think we were communicating very well defensively. There were some missed assignments because of our lack of communication. Those are some things that a young team will do and it’s my job to fix it.”
Marquel Hooker registered a game-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He added five steals, four rebounds and three assists as well.
“I thought Marquel played with good energy (last night) and he made some 3s,” Blundo said. “He made a couple of bad decisions. But all in all, he was active and his hands were all over the place.
“He made some shots early on to really get us going. When you look at the statsheet when the game is over, he’s doing it offensively, defensively, he’s making 3s, he’s making free throws, he’s finishing. There’s an occasional bad shot or a bad decision. We like his aggressiveness. He’s rebounding the ball. He’s doing a lot right, right now, and he can get a lot better.”
Robert Natale contributed 11 markers with three assists and three steals for the winners.
Mike McNabb tossed in a team-high eight points for Valley.
New Castle will meet Seton-La Salle, a 76-52 winner over Hickory in the first game, at 7:30 p.m. today in the championship. The Rebels (8-0) are ranked No. 3 in the WPIAL in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 3 in the PIAA by the Harrisburg Patriot-News.
Seton-La Salle is the defending WPIAL Class AA champions and state runner-up.
New Castle’s home game Saturday against Monessen was moved up from 7:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. because of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 8:15 p.m. AFC Wild Card game against Baltimore at Heinz Field.