New Castle boys pull away for win over Ellwood Cit
New Castle (75) Vs. Ellwood City (55)
Jan 12, 2016
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
There was no sign of a letdown Tuesday night for the New Castle High boys basketball team.
Marquel Hooker scored 25 points as the Red Hurricane pulled away for a 75-55 WPIAL Section 2-AAA win over Ellwood City Lincoln at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.
The contest closes the first half of section play for both teams. New Castle (7-0 section, 14-0 overall), which was coming off a 75-53 section road win over second-place Beaver Falls on Friday, caps the first half in sole possession of first place in the league.
"I thought we played hard," 'Canes coach Ralph Blundo said. "Elwood came out and did some good things. Our shooting was sporadic against their zone. I certainly thought we could have played better, but we'll take the win.
"Of course I'm pleased to be 6-0 in the league right now. We have a tough road ahead of us. The second half of section play is the most difficult time of the year. There's more familiarity with opponents and it won't be easy. We'll have to play well."
New Castle is ranked No. 3 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette prior to the release of this week's updated rankings.
The Wolverines (3-4, 7-7) are tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the section with Central Valley. The Wolverines, though, defeated the Warriors in the first contest and have the head-to-head tiebreaker heading into Friday's rematch on the road.
"I thought Ellwood played well gun to gun and that's a credit to them," Blundo said. "I think that Ellwood has some talented guards right now. They play hard and they do some good things.
"They certainly are capable of being a playoff team in our league this year. They'll be right in that mix."
Hooker, a senior, netted 15 of his tallies in the opening half as New Castle claimed a 21-14 lead after one period and 42-25 buffer at the break.
"I just kept attacking and kept shooting," Hooker said. "I kept looking for my teammates and my teammates kept looking for me."
Hooker came in averaging a team-best 23.8 points a game.
"He did some good things," Blundo said of Hooker. "I thought Marquel played with good energy. He rebounded the basketball well; it was another good game for him."
The teams battled early, with Ellwood City holding its only two leads of the game at 2-0 and 8-6. Brandon Parchman's trifecta with 2:50 to go in the opening quarter put the 'Canes up for good at 9-8. New Castle pushed the advantage to 21-14 after one.
"Marquel made a couple of 3s and we generated a couple of turnovers into finishes," Blundo said of how his team gained the upper hand on the foe.
The 'Canes' lead remained in double digits for the final half of the second quarter. New Castle's Pat Minenok capped the first half with his only bucket of the game, a basket inside, to send the hosts into the half with a 42-25 lead.
"We kept attacking the hoop and a couple of guys got into foul trouble for them," Blundo said. "I thought we kept penetrating, too."
The Wolverines got to within 15 once in the third quarter at 49-34 with 3:31 left, but the 'Canes pushed the advantage out to 61-41 going to the fourth. Despite trailing 73-45 with 3:47 remaining, Ellwood City closed the game on a 10-2 run.
"They're a good team. They're a scrappy team," Hooker said of the Wolverines.
Marquel Hooker's younger Marcus Hooker chipped in 16 points and Gino DeMonaco delivered 12. Geno Stone supplied 11.
"Marcus did a lot of good things. He got a little bit out of sync there for a little bit. But he played hard," Blundo said. "The ball didn't always go in, but I thought he did some good things.
"I thought Gino DeMonaco was really good offensively, too. He had a couple of really good looks from the corner and he was really good with the dribble attacking their zone and finishing in the lane."
Said Marquel Hooker, "It's nice to know you have a team full of players that have your back. It's not always necessarily about what you're doing, it's about what your teammates are doing."
Blundo and his team recognize that whatever transpired in the first half of section play isn't a given for a repeat in the second half. He expects his team to remain sharp and focused.
"We truly believe that we could lose games if we don't play well," Blundo said. "That's not coach speak, we really believe that. We prepare that way and I know that. That's a fact.
"Those are the things that can happen if you don't play well. You have to prepare well, you have to keep getting better."
Anthony Roth recorded 16 markers and Frederick Roth was next with 14. Nick Ioanilli, who fouled out with 5:12 to go in the game, tossed in 12 tallies.
New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday when it travels to section foe Beaver (2-5, 5-9). The 'Canes won the first meeting, 85-54.
"The same goes for Friday night," Blundo continued about staying focused. "We beat them pretty handily up here. But there's no doubt that they are a team that can beat us if we don't play well.
"Our approach is about the process. They're playing better basketball than they were earlier in the year. (Beaver's) Darius Wise is probably one of the best players in the league."