New Castle breezes to easy win over McGuffey
New Castle (62) Vs. McGuffey (36)
Mar 16, 2017
By Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
AMBRIDGE — Swarming defense is a trademark to the New Castle High boys basketball team’s success.
That intense pressure proved to be a key Thursday against McGuffey.
New Castle forced 25 turnovers, including miscues on the Highlanders’ first five possessions, en route to a 62-36 PIAA Class 4A second-round win at Ambridge High School.
The ‘Canes (25-2) built a 55-15 lead after three quarters by forcing all but one of McGuffey’s turnovers in the first 24 minutes.
“We obviously played well. It’s really about defending,” said seventh-year New Castle coach Ralph Blundo. “We made it hard on them, I thought, to run their stuff. I was pleased with our effort.
“I thought we did a good job of how we guarded them.”
The ‘Canes will square off against Erie Strong Vincent in the quarterfinals Saturday at a time and site to be determined. The Colonels (25-3) defeated Beaver Falls, 71-48, to advance.
“They have one of the best players in the state in (senior guard) David Morris,” Blundo said. “They always play hard, really hard.
“They’re one of the best teams in the state right now, that’s clear.”
Because of the threat of a snow storm earlier in the week, the PIAA moved all of the basketball games to Thursday night. Both teams will have just one day to prepare for the quarterfinal matchup.
“These guys are good at it,” Blundo said of getting prepared for a game. “My staff is good at getting things ready and they’re bright kids. We’ll be able to do it in one day.
“It’s great to be in the quarterfinals. But it’s the next game and that’s what we’re thinking about. We’re going to work hard to be ready for it.”
This was the second meeting between the teams in the postseason. The first came on Feb. 25, a 73-40 New Castle victory in the WPIAL playoffs.
New Castle, which never trailed, fed off that early defensive dominance to score the game’s first eight points.
“I think it was important to do that and it was important to play well early,” Blundo said. “We certainly didn’t want them believing that they could win the game. I think getting out early really helped that.”
Gino DeMonaco propelled the ‘Canes to a 16-4 lead after one quarter. DeMonaco netted nine tallies in the period, all on 3-pointers.
DeMonaco finished with 15 points on five 3-pointers. He was 5 of 10 from the field.
“You want to get him going because once he gets going, he’s on all night,” said New Castle senior Geno Stone. “When all of the attention is on him, it gives others the opportunity to get open and make some shots, too.”
And that’s what happened throughout the game for the ‘Canes.
Marcus Hooker picked up the slack for New Castle in the second quarter, posting 10 of his 14 markers.
“DeMonaco shot it great and Geno Stone shot it great. Marcus got going,” Blundo said. “It was an all-around good effort tonight. That’s how you have to play this time of year if you want to move on in the state playoffs.”
The Highlanders turned the ball over eight times in the second quarter as the ‘Canes built a 36-12 halftime advantage.
“We wanted to come out and jump on them early,” Stone said. “When we got on them early we were able to put them away. We came out, hit our shots and we defended well.
“The defense was a big part of it. We turned them over a lot and we got on them. We didn’t let them get back in the game this time.”
Stone scored nine of his team-high 19 points in the third quarter, all on 3-pointers. He was 7 of 11 from the floor, handing out a team-best seven assists and sharing team-high rebound honors with Te’Quawn Stewart — both with four.
“It just feels great to play well as a team,” Stone said.
Blundo emptied his bench with 44.8 seconds to go in the third quarter. The ‘Canes’ reserves played the entire fourth quarter, including the first four minutes of that period against the Highlanders’ starters.
“Regardless of what happens this year, the program won’t end,” Blundo said. “We have to play again next year. If we get an opportunity to get some guys some minutes it’s always a good thing.”
Trent Belleville led McGuffey with 19 points, 10 of which came in the fourth period. He also tallied a team-best 19 markers in the first contest against New Castle.