’Canes edge Central Valley
New Castle (55) Vs. Central Valley (53)
Jan 21, 2015
By Joe Sager
New Castle News
CENTER TWP. — Central Valley might not receive a lot of hype this season.
However, New Castle High boys basketball coach Ralph Blundo is very aware of the Warriors’ capabilities. That’s why he was so thrilled his Red Hurricane held on for last night’s 55-53 win at Central Valley in WPIAL Section 2-AAA battle.
The Warriors, the defending WPIAL Class AAA champs, made a late charge, but a desperation shot at the buzzer missed the hoop and New Castle, last year’s WPIAL and PIAA Class AAAA champ, held on for the triumph.
“This is as good a win as you can get in the section, believe me when I tell you that. Beating Central Valley at Central Valley is not easy to do,” Blundo said. “Their record is so deceiving because it took them a while to get going with their football guys coming back. Now that they’re going, if they get into the playoffs, they are capable of winning a WPIAL championship. It was just a great basketball game.”
The win was key for the ’Canes (8-1 section, 13-3 overall) as they chase section-leading Beaver Falls. Central Valley (4-5, 7-8) is tied with Beaver for fourth place. The section’s top four teams advance to the postseason.
“Any section road win is going to be a hard test, but I think we kept our composure down the stretch and we came out with the win.” said New Castle’s Robert Natale, who had a team-best 19 points. “Teams we play now aren’t going to quit, no matter what. They came out in the second half and played hard. We played hard, too, and it just worked out for us.”
New Castle built a 16-8 lead after the first. The guests seemed on the verge of running away with the game when Natale’s floater at the buzzer pushed the advantage to 30-17 at halftime.
The Warriors fought back, though, in the third and trimmed the deficit to 38-35, when John George swished a pair of 3-pointers. Natale retaliated from downtown to give the ’Canes a 41-35 lead at the buzzer.
“I think that’s a credit to them — the reason why we couldn’t get that dagger is because they just kept coming and making plays,” Blundo said. “George got hot in the second half; what a clutch kid he is. He made some big shots.”
New Castle pushed its lead back up to eight, 46-38, with 3:50 to play, but Central Valley did not fade. George’s steal and layup made it a 50-48 game with 1:18 to go. Marcus Hooker and Micah Fulena sandwiched a pair of free throws around two George freebies to give the ’Canes a 54-50 edge with 21.6 seconds to go.
The Warriors’ Josh Carter swished a trey — on his only shot of the night — with 13.3 seconds left to trim it to a 54-53 game. The hosts fouled Fulena with 7.7 seconds to play and he split a pair of freebies. Central Valley attempted a long 3-pointer for the win, but the ball was well off its mark as the buzzer sounded.
“This was exactly what we expected tonight. A lot of credit to Central Valley. I just think they are so well coached and play so hard,” Blundo said. “I thought they made great adjustments throughout the course of the game. That’s not easy to do against us because we both know each other so well. Their guys made really big shots. It was a great hard-fought Section 2 game.”
The game was decided at the foul line. The ’Canes made 16 of their 23 attempts, while the Warriors were 9 of 21 from the charity stripe, including 6 for 12 in the final frame.
“We work at it and we’ve been pretty good all year. We weren’t good against Lincoln Park (in Saturday’s 59-47 loss),” Blundo said. “But, that was the difference in this game when you look at the stats.”
Geno Stone added 12 points off the bench for New Castle. Marcus Hooker had nine.
Chris Anastas contributed 11 points for Central Valley.