New Castle cruises to win over Ellwood City
New Castle (79) Vs. Ellwood City (23)
Feb 05, 2016
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
Going undefeated through the regular season in basketball is no small task.
New Castle High's boys team is on the verge of doing just — that with one more hurdle to surpass.
And one more victory would make it four times in the last five seasons the Red Hurricane navigated the regular season unscathed.
New Castle was relentless from the start Friday night on both ends of the floor in posting a 79-23 WPIAL Section 2-AAA road win over Ellwood City Lincoln.
The 'Canes (14-0 section, 21-0 overall), who 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, have finished the regular season unbeaten three times during coach Ralph Blundo's first five seasons. They're looking to make it four out of six overall, including four of the last five with a win Monday on the road against Taylor Allderdice (19-1).
"I guess that's what comes with winning this next game," said Blundo of his team's situation. "It's OK to make that a goal. Right now, the next game is Allderdice and we're excited about that.
"What it says about the program is that the culture is solid. The expectation of not so much greatness, but the expectation of doing things the right way. Caring about one another, working hard, being committed with an unselfish approach to their craft. That culture, I believe, is deeply rooted and that's one of the reasons why we're able to be in the same position we are now as we were three and four years ago."
The Dragons, who are coming off a 100-52 win over Westinghouse, are ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AAAA. Their lone loss came against Kennedy Catholic — a Class A school — 71-63.
"We're just looking forward to a great challenge," Blundo said. "We know they're a great team. We played them last year.
"I'm just happy for my kids. They get to play in a game like this before the playoffs come. It's a great transition game for us in terms of filling in that gap. We're going to get better against Allderdice, regardless of what happens."
The 'Canes didn't show any signs of a letdown following Tuesday's 60-49 win over Beaver Falls that locked up the section title outright. New Castle, which never trailed against the Wolverines, closed the opening quarter on a 25-2 run to forge a 30-4 margin after eight minutes.
"Our guys were locked in and ready to play," Blundo said. "I'm as proud of them for a performance like this as I am against a team like Beaver Falls. Because young people who are mature enough to handle the rebound of a big game against a team that maybe you're a bit better than, this said a lot to me."
Marquel Hooker netted a game-high 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting for New Castle. He added six rebounds, three assists and three steals as well. Hooker was held to just nine points Tuesday in the win over Beaver Falls.
"I felt like my performance tonight was better than the games I've been playing previously," he said. "I've just not been focused lately in my mind. I had a talk with coach and he told me to get it together and go out there and play hard.
"It definitely would mean a lot to us (beating Allderdice) because coming into the season people thought we wouldn't beat this team, or that team and look where we are now."
The 'Canes pushed the lead to 48-6 at the half, putting the entire second half into the mercy rule. New Castle won the first meeting against Ellwood City, 75-55.
Marcus Hooker, Marquel's younger brother, chipped in 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting with eight boards. Geno Stone supplied 11 markers, five assists and four caroms.
The 'Canes' Gino DeMonaco didn't play. DeMonaco, who comes off the bench averaging 7.2 points a game, is wearing a boot on his right foot after sustaining a sprained ankle against Beaver Falls, stepping on another foot.
"When he took his shoe off after the game it just blew up," Blundo said. "We're going to rehab him and get him back as soon as we can. He wouldn't have played (Friday) even if it was a playoff game."
Anthony Roth paced the Wolverines (4-10, 8-13) with 14 points, nine in the fourth quarter. Ellwood City has lost seven of its last eight.
New Castle took its biggest lead of 62 (71-9) on a foul shot by Lorenzo Gardner with 6:18 to go in the tilt.