New Castle rallies for section win over Beaver
New Castle (76) Vs. Beaver (65)
Jan 17, 2015
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

New Castle High looked like a different basketball team in the second half last night.

The Red Hurricane boys turned up the defensive pressure and came out more intense on both ends of the court.

It all added up to a 76-65 come-from-behind WPIAL Section 2-AAA win for New Castle over Beaver at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House. It was the opening game of the second half of section play for both teams.

“We played harder in the second half. It’s that simple. We played harder in the second half,” ’Canes coach Ralph Blundo said. “We talk a lot about how hard and what some people would consider would be hard. We didn’t play hard enough in the first half and that’s disappointing.

“We got a good section win. We’ll take every win we can get. I just want the controllable things to be there night in and night out.”

New Castle (7-1 section, 12-2 overall) remained a game back of section-leading Beaver Falls (8-0, 12-2), which knocked off Ambridge last night, 79-63.

The ’Canes trailed the entire first half after the Bobcats (3-5, 7-7) scored the game’s first six points. Blundo called a timeout with the count at 4-0 and his team appearing more than a step slow.

“They’re young and I can recall back to my first year’s team occasionally and these were things that we had to discuss,” Blundo said. “They had to understand that the one thing that can never be compromised is the way we approach each and every game.”

Beaver settled for a 16-13 lead after one period and a 37-34 buffer at the break. The Bobcats led by as much as nine in the first half at 28-19 with five minutes to go in the half.

“I just think we were a little off,” said New Castle freshman Marcus Hooker of the team’s first-half performance. “We weren’t alert.

“After coach took us in the locker room at half and he had to yell at us and we took it as something serious; we just came out and did what we had to do in the second half.”

Hooker propelled the ’Canes to their first lead at 42-41 when he converted a three-point play with 6:34 left in the third quarter. The teams traded baskets before Beaver pushed the lead to 51-44 with 1:32 to go in the period.

New Castle regrouped and cut it to 51-49 after three stanzas. D’Marqus Blanchard had a putback go off the rim with a second left that would have tied the game.

“It was not fun,” Hooker said of his team playing from behind for most of the game to that point. “We needed to kick it up a notch and get our energy up and get our heads out of the water and wake up.”

The ’Canes came alive in the fourth quarter behind a strong defensive effort. New Castle forced 17 total turnovers, six of which came in the final frame.

“We did some good things defensively and I think that Beaver ran out of gas a little bit down the stretch,” Blundo said. “Credit to Beaver, I thought they played a really good basketball game. They’re not very deep, but the guys they had out there played really good basketball.”

New Castle opened the fourth quarter on a 13-3 run, taking its biggest lead to that point at 62-54 with 4:33 remaining.

Hooker netted a career-high 20 points to pace the ’Canes. He posted 11 of his tallies in the final frame.

“I just had a spring of energy and I just felt like I didn’t want my team to lose so I just had to kick it up a notch,” Hooker said of his fourth-quarter play.

“Hooker can be really, really good,” Blundo said. “But he’s like any other player. When the effort and focus is tremendous, then he’s very good. When it’s not, he becomes very average. That’s the nature of basketball.”

Hooker was 9 of 10 from the field with seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Marquel Hooker, Marcus’ older brother, was next for the winners with 17 markers on 5-of-7 shooting. He pulled down a team-best nine rebounds, four steals and three assists.

But Marquel Hooker fouled out with 1:26 left and the ’Canes up 72-60. Marquel Hooker was hit with his fourth foul with 3:49 to go in the third canto and New Castle down 45-44.

“Typically fouls are created by poor defensive positioning,” Blundo said. “Some of it was our inability to stay in front of (Beaver’s Darius) Wise at times.

“Good positioning, doing things fundamentally right and you foul less. (Last night), at times, we didn’t do that. But in the second half I thought we were really good.”

Robert Natale notched 12 points for New Castle on four 3-pointers, while Blanchard added 10 tallies.

Wise bucketed a game-high 22 points for Beaver.

“That’s Darius Wise every night, and he’s just a sophomore,” Blundo said. “It’s every night. If you look at his stat line in this league every night, that’s his stat line every night. Credit to him, he’s been playing really good basketball. He’s quick, he finishes and he’s only going to get better.”

New Castle returns to action at 8 p.m. today at Geneva College with a matchup against Class AA Lincoln Park in the Hoops For A Cure Shootout. The contest, which is part of a four-game tournament, initially was scheduled for next Saturday.

Lincoln Park is ranked No. 2 in the WPIAL in Class AA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Despite the schedule adjustment, Blundo believes his team will be ready for tonight’s test.

“I believe that kids go to bed and they wake up the next morning and they’re not tired anymore. We are looking forward to playing Lincoln Park (today).”

Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
New Castle 13 21 15 27 0 76
Beaver 16 21 14 14 0 65
Box Scores
Nick Barney 5 2-2 12
Darius Wise 10 1-4 22
Zach Royba 3 4-6 12,
Austin Zurik 0 0-0 0
Austin Saal 6 2-3 15
Nathan McCune 1 2-2 4
Totals: 25 11-17 65

Marquel Hooker 5 6-8 17
Micah Fulena 2 4-4 8
Robert Natale 4 0-0 12
Pat Minenok 1 0-0 2
D’Marqus Blanchard 5 0-0 10
Marcus Hooker 9 2-3 20
Geno Stone 3 1-2 7
Totals: 29 13-17 76

BEAVER 16 21 14 14 — 65
NEW CASTLE 13 21 15 27 — 76

3-point goals — Beaver 4 (Royba 2, Wise 1, Saal 1), New Castle 5 (Natale 4, Marq. Hooker 1).
JV score: New Castle 47, Beaver 32. High scorer: NC — Braeden Robinson 13, Lorenzo Gardner 11, Quindel Reed 10.
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