New Castle boys cruise to win over Ambridge
New Castle (83) Vs. Ambridge (55)
Jan 29, 2016
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
The New Castle High boys basketball team is one step from a section championship.
Marquel Hooker netted a game-best 27 points to lead the Red Hurricane to an 83-55 WPIAL Section 2-AAA home win over Ambridge at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House on Friday night.
New Castle (12-0 section, 19-0 overall) can capture the section title outright with a win at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at home over Beaver Falls (11-1, 18-2). The 'Canes are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 4 in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg. The Tigers are No. 3 in the WPIAL by the Post-Gazette and No. 5 in the state.
"It would mean a lot to these guys," said sixth-year New Castle coach Ralph Blundo on a league crown. "Our juniors don't have a section title. It would mean a lot.
"We know what we have to do. I think for seeding purposes and just everything that goes with it it's big. The kids work hard and they certainly deserve to reap what they sew and enjoy some of the rewards that come with the success."
Hooker, a senior, was a sophomore the last time the 'Canes won a section title. But he played sparingly and tallied just 12 markers that season.
"It's definitely worth it," Hooker said of possibly being on a section championship squad. "We work hard all summer and all season for this. This is what we're here for. We definitely want it bad because last year we didn't win it."
Hooker was 11 of 18 from the field with six rebounds and five assists.
"He had a great game, points, steals assists," Blundo said of Hooker. "He filled up the stat sheet."
Fifteen of Hooker's markers came in the first half as New Castle grabbed a 42-22 lead at the break.
The 'Canes trailed just once at 6-5 with 5:33 to go in the opening quarter. The Bridgers (6-6, 9-9) knotted the count at 8, but Pat Minenok's basket put New Castle ahead for good at 10-8 with 4:18 remaining in the opening quarter.
Minenok was making his return to the lineup after missing the previous two games with the flu. He finished with 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds.
"He brought a ton of energy and he played really hard," Blundo said. "He really played a great game; he was healthy and ready to go."
The 'Canes pushed the lead to 61-39 after three quarters when Gino DeMonaco drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We've been good at the end of quarters all year. That's important for us," Blundo said.
New Castle was in cruise control in the final frame. Minenok excelled in the early stages of the fourth when he made a bucket and was fouled with 6:55 remaining. He missed the free throw, but raced to snare the rebound and drove in for a layup to cap off four quick points for the senior.
"I'm just proud of my team's effort. They came out and did their thing, especially Pat," Hooker said. "Pat is definitely a big part of this program. If it wasn't for his defense and the way his effort is in the paint, we wouldn't get half the rebounds we got.
"All of my rebounds are created by him for clearing out their big men."
Geno Stone and Marcus Hooker tossed in 14 points each for the winners.
The 'Canes' Micah Fulena registered eight points and a game-best 16 assists with no turnovers. Blundo wasn't sure if the assists are a school record.
"Micah just found guys time after time," Blundo said. "He was in position to make plays. He was excellent. It was a great performance by him.
"I thought Micah played a really great basketball game tonight."
Darius Lawrence led Ambridge with 18 points, nine coming in the third quarter and 14 in the second half.
Blundo and his squad remain focused on the task at hand, refusing to look ahead to a foe that's down the road. Beaver Falls is that next challenge, but hasn't been a topic in New Castle's locker room since the previous encounter on Jan. 8.
"They're on my mind now," Blundo said after Friday's win. "We'll prepare and get ready for them. It's going to take another great effort to beat them."
The 'Canes won the first meeting, 75-53.