New Castle topples Ellwood City
New Castle (57) Vs. Ellwood City (52)
Feb 13, 2010
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
The streak is intact.
And the New Castle High boys basketball team is going to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
Corey Eggleston tossed in a game-high 23 points, including two clutch foul shots, to propel the Red Hurricane to a 57-52 WPIAL Section 2-AAA win over Ellwood City Lincoln last night on the road.
This was the last game between the schools as section rivals with the Wolverines dropping down to Class AA next year.
New Castle (5-7 section, 6-14 overall) clinched the section’s final playoff berth with Blackhawk’s 65-47 victory over Ambridge.
“A lot of people may have wrote us off but we talked about it every day,” ’Canes coach Mark Stanley said of the playoffs. “The coaching staff always looked at the playoff scenarios and we talked about what we needed to do. The kids didn’t quit and I give them credit; they kept their heads up and tried to get better each day.
“People will say we backed in but I don’t believe that. You have to win a certain number of games and you do what you have to do. When it’s all said and done, if you get in you’ve earned it.”
The Wolverines’ last win over the ’Canes was a 53-49 decision on their home floor Jan. 15, 1992.
“It may be a curse,” Ellwood City coach Jason Bumblis said of the losing streak. “We’ve had them on the ropes three of the last four times we played and we just let them off the hook.”
New Castle was on the brink of elimination after a 64-57 overtime loss at Ambridge (4-8, 10-10) two weeks ago. But the Bridgers dropped their last five section games to open the door for the ’Canes.
“I thought six wins would get us in,” Stanley said. “We lost a couple of tough ones earlier in the year but the kids were still playing hard.
“We’re not going to quit. We told the guys let’s take care of section play. We were always alive and we always had an angle of how to get in.”
The Cougars (10-2, 16-6) earned a share of the section crown with Hopewell (10-2, 14-7), which crushed Center (9-3, 14-6), 60-24. The Trojans could have secured the title outright on Thursday at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House, but New Castle pulled away for a 67-55 win.
Eggleston put the ’Canes up 53-50 with a layup. The ball slowly rolled around the rim before finally falling through with 1:43 to play. Ellwood City’s Matt Germanoski converted a field goal with 1:05 remaining to cut the deficit to 53-52.
The Wolverines had a chance to take the lead, but Ryan Horgan was whistled for a traveling violation with 32.2 seconds to play. It was Ellwood City’s second traveling call in a 90-second stretch.
“It’s hard to win when you can’t get shots down the stretch,” Bumblis said. “If I knew why that was happening, I’d be making millions.”
New Castle got the ball inbounds to Eggleston, who was quickly fouled with 31.1 seconds left. Eggleston was just 1 of 6 to that point from the line before making the long walk to the other end.
Eggleston came in averaging 62.6 percent from the charity stripe.
“I was frustrated. I knew the team needed it and I knew we were only up one point,” Eggleston said of his previous struggles. “I’ll do anything to help my team move on. I was really nervous.
“I was just thinking about practice. I make them a lot at practice. I was just thinking if I can get through them at practice why can’t I get through them here?”
He did, with ease, burying both to put the ’Canes up 55-52.
“Everything was on the line. We knew if he hits two, they have to get a three,” Stanley said. “You have to step up and hit them and he did.
“I know he’s nervous but he nailed them. Anybody in that situation, regardless of grade, it’s tough but he knocked them down.”
Bumblis got exactly what he wanted when Eggleston received the inbound pass.
“He was the right guy to put there, but he stepped up and calmly knocked them down,” Bumblis said.
Darrian Rice stole the ball on Ellwood City’s next possession and he drove in to put New Castle up 57-52 with 15 seconds left. Following an Ellwood City timeout, Marcus Carter stole another pass to send the New Castle fans into a frenzy. The ’Canes’ bench started jumping around as the clock ticked down and all the members on the Wolverines’ bench could do was look on in disbelief.
Ellwood City opened the game shooting two technical free throws because Carter dunked the ball in pregame warm-up. Gino Ceriani, who paced Ellwood City with 15 points, split a pair of foul shots for a 1-0 lead before the start of the game.
“I didn’t want the technical,” Bumblis said. “I tried to tell the referees not to give it but we can’t decline it.”
Said Stanley, “I give coach Bumblis credit. He didn’t want it and they split them. That’s stuff we have to work on, being more disciplined and Marcus felt bad. I just told him to play hard and we’ll overcome it.”
The ’Canes led just once in the opening half at 2-1 and didn’t take their next lead until Rice sank a field goal 17 seconds into the fourth quarter for a 41-40 buffer.
Rice added 10 points for the ’Canes. Brandon Lucarelli tossed in 12 markers for the Wolverines (3-9, 7-14).
Free throws were costly for Ellwood City, which converted just 15 of 29 attempts.
“Rebounding and foul shooting are two things we’ve done well all year,” Bumblis said. “Tonight was a different story. What are you going to do? New Castle stepped up and made plays.”