'Canes roll past Beaver, now 15-0
New Castle (73) Vs. Beaver (34)
Jan 15, 2016
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
BEAVER — The New Castle High boys basketball team took over the top spot in the WPIAL Class AAA rankings Thursday.
On Friday night, the Red Hurricane lived up to its reputation.
New Castle scored the first 25 points of the game and rolled to a 73-34 Section 2-AAA road win over Beaver.
“We’ve been in this position before. We’re not misled,” ‘Canes coach Ralph Blundo said. “We know exactly who we are. We know where we need to improve, where we need to get better.
“The No. 1 ranking, I didn’t even know. No disrespect to anyone, it doesn’t mean anything to us.”
The ‘Canes (8-0 section, 15-0 overall) are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They also are ranked No. 4 in the PIAA by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg.
New Castle came out focused, forcing 14 first-quarter Bobcats turnovers and racing to a 25-2 buffer after the opening quarter.
“I didn’t even know,” New Castle’s Micah Fulena said of his team’s new No. 1 ranking. “It’s a tough place to play down here. The emphasis all week was to stay focused, take care of business and get out of here with a win.”
And that’s exactly what the ‘Canes did. Making things a little more manageable was the absence of Beaver’s stellar guard Darius Wise. Wise, who was out with a strained abdominal muscle, is averaging 23 points a game.
Blundo learned of Wise’s absence during the junior varsity game when Beaver coach Andy Podbielski told him during a short chat.
“It didn’t change anything for us. No team can afford to lose a Darius Wise,” Blundo said. “He’s a huge part of what they do. That was clear (Friday night). They changed dramatically without him.”
Beaver (2-6, 5-10) finally scored with 33 seconds to go in the first quarter on a putback by Bryce Ramer. New Castle kept attacking, scoring six quick points to open the second stanza and opening a 41-10 lead with 4:17 to go in the opening half.
“Throughout the game, no matter what the score is, you can always get better,” Fulena said of not relaxing. “Running plays, executing. You can use that as a time to get better and that’s what we did.”
The ‘Canes forced 14 Bobcats turnovers in the opening quarter and 19 in the half as they claimed a 46-17 advantage at the half.
Gino DeMonaco’s 3-pointer with 1:43 left in the third quarter put New Castle up 62-22, starting the mercy rule. Twelve total players competed for the ‘Canes in the easy win.
“That’s always good when the younger guys get to play meaningful minutes,” Blundo said. “I thought our guys did a good job with that.”
Marquel Hooker, Marcus Hooker and Geno Stone shared team-high honors in scoring, tossing in 15 markers apiece. Marquel Hooker was 6 of 14 from the field with four steals and three assists. Marcus Hooker, Marquel’s younger brother, was 7 of 10 from the floor with nine rebounds, five steals and four assists. Stone was 6 of 10 from the field.
Fulena handed out a game-best eight assists to go with his five markers.
“Micah is turning into one heck of a passer,” Blundo said. “He gets the ball in the hands of guys, but it’s more than that. It’s about getting the ball into the guys hands at the right time, in positions where they can be effective. He’s done that as well as anyone that I’ve coached.”
Ramer recorded a team-best 10 points for Beaver.
New Castle returns to action at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when it hosts section foe Central Valley (4-4, 8-7). It will be the first time the ‘Canes will put their No. 1 ranking on the line at home.
The ‘Canes trailed the Warriors in the first encounter by five points at the half before rallying for a 62-51 decision.
“We know they’re a good team,” Blundo said. “They do a lot right. They’ve always played us tough during my six years here.
“We know we’re going to have to play well. They want that win more than anything because they need it to be a playoff team. We have a lot of respect for that program down there. We expect Tuesday night’s game to be a heck of a ballgame.”
Said Fulena, “Central Valley is a good team. They gave us a heck of a game down there. They’re a really good team. We have to stay focused.”