Lady ’Canes open with easy victory
Beaver Falls (36) Vs. New Castle (74)
Dec 11, 2009
Special to the News
The first test comes today. OK, so it is more like a pop quiz, but Jason Rankin is ready.
Rankin has taken over the New Castle High School girls basketball program this season and all the high expectations that go with it. Expectations such as another 20-win season, repeating as WPIAL Class AAA champions and making a deep run in the PIAA playoffs.
He knows his players and himself are going to be tested along the way.
Defending champions and teams with lofty reputations, such as New Castle, always get an opponent’s best effort.
So, when the Lady ’Canes take on North Hills in the girls‚ championship game of the New Castle Tipoff Tournament at 4:30 p.m. today, Rankin expect his team to be in for a tussle. And, just to spice the contest up a little, he brought up an interesting fact.
“We’ve never lost a game in this tournament,” he said after New Castle trounced Beaver Falls, 74-36, last night in a first-round contest at the school’s field house. “This is the eighth year there have been girls games in it and we’ve never lost.”
New Castle and North Hills are former WPIAL Section 3-AAAA rivals. The Lady ’Canes have won the last seven meetings dating back to the 2004-2005 season. The teams didn’t meet last year.
And so it begins for Rankin, who has taken over the program from Luann Grybowski, who has taken her considerable coaching talents to Neshannock.
The score was tied, 2-2, and then New Castle ran off 26 consecutive points with 5-foot-7 sophomore Kaylynn Waters, one of three returning starters, as the catalyst. Waters, who led four New Castle players in double figures with 18 points, nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing to get the run started then flipped in a layup off a fastbreak.
JaNia McPhatter followed with a 3-pointer from the right side and LaShauna Brothers drove the lane for a layup.
Just like that, the Lady ’Canes were up 12-2 and the timeout Beaver Falls called wasn’t going to slow the freight train.
“I got my confidence after I made that first 3,” Waters said. “It was pretty good (for a first game). It could have been better.”
Yeah, first games are like that. They always could have been better for the winners as well as the losers.
As well as New Castle played in the first quarter, it had a 29-6 lead at the end of the first eight minutes, connected on 11 of 23 field-goal attempts, held Beaver Falls to 1 for 8 from the floor and forced 12 turnovers the Lady ’Canes went into a bit of a funk in the second period.
They missed their first 10 shots, committed a number of unnecessary fouls and allowed Beaver Falls to creep to within 32-17 on the scoreboard with 4:07 left before the half.
“We relaxed a little bit, which was understandable and they came back at us and responded,” Rankin said. “We missed some easy shots.”
Midway through the second quarter, New Castle regained its scoring touch, ran off eight points in a row and ended any slim chance Beaver Falls had of getting back into the game. The Lady ’Canes had a commanding 44-21 lead at the intermission.
“It was interesting because the kids asked me what I thought was going to happen (before the game,)” Rankin said. “I thought we’d come out nervous, which we were a little bit.
“Once we got running they were scrambling to find players (to defend) and we were able to hit shots.”
Rankin was glad the Lady ’Canes had the big scoring run at the start of the game. He thought that took some of the pressure off the players.
“I would say yes and no,” Waters said when asked about the first-quarter outburst. “It was good that we were able to do that but then we relaxed and that was bad.”
New Castle made just 6 of 26 field-goal attempts in the second quarter but Beaver Falls was having trouble dealing with the Lady ’Canes full-court pressure defense. Plus, the Tigers were outrebounded, 36-25, with a good number of their 25 coming in the fourth quarter when the only thing in question was how many points the New Castle reserves would score.
Brothers finished with 17 points with 11 coming in the third quarter.
McPhatter had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Delvona Dennis had 10 points and nine rebounds. New Castle forced 29 turnovers and had 11 steals.
“It was good to get our feet wet,” Rankin said. “I thought the pressure (defense) helped us out. We got some easy ones; we missed a bunch of easy ones, too.
“I was happy (with the way we play). You’re always after perfection, but I thought we played well.”