Highlands tops New Castle in shoot-out
Highlands (93) Vs. New Castle (82)
Feb 20, 2010
By RON PONIEWASZ JR.
BUTLER — Offense wasn’t a problem Saturday for the New Castle High boys basketball team.
The Red Hurricane surrendered 55 second-half points en route to a 93-82 loss to Highlands in a WPIAL Class AAA preliminary-round matchup at Butler High School.
The 93 points were the highest New Castle (6-15) allowed since North Allegheny rolled to a 92-72 home win on Feb. 4, 1992. The ’Canes also surpassed the 80-point plateau for the first time since Dec. 9, 2004, an 80-64 verdict over Hampton.
“We couldn’t get any defensive stops; they’re very good offensively,” ’Canes coach Mark Stanley said of the Golden Rams. “I don’t think either team played much defense (Saturday).
“It’s tough to get into racehorse basketball with them. It wasn’t a scoring thing; it was definitely a defensive issue.”
The 175 total points was one marker shy of the Class AAA single-game playoff record. The record of 176 points was established in 1984 when Aliquippa edged Burrell in double-overtime, 91-85.
Highlands (13-9) will meet fourth-seeded Laurel Highlands (21-1), which had a bye, at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Gateway High School.
The Golden Rams kept the pace to their liking. They went over 70 points for the 11th time this year — winning all of them — while exceeding 80 tallies for the fourth time.
“Offensively, we shot it pretty well,” said first-year Golden Rams coach Shawn Bennis. “We knew they were going to be quick and athletic; I’ve said it before, they’re the best 6-15 team I’ve seen.”
“We thought we could drive and kick, but we have to get better defensively.”
LIGHTING IT UP
Corey Eggleston, a 5-10 sophomore guard, poured in a game- and career-high 33 points for the ’Canes, 19 of which came in the second half. Four of his 11 field goals were 3-pointers.
“I usually don’t shoot 3s like that,” Eggleston said. “Coach said he believed that I could knock them down so I went with what he said.”
The ’Canes, who never led and were tied just once at 2, fell behind 15-4 4:18 into the contest. Eggleston netted eight markers in the opening stanza to close to 23-17 after one period.
“He kept us in it,” Stanley said. “They couldn’t stay in front of him and he was able to get to the basket.
“He was our offense. He did some good things and he got us going early.”
Said Eggleston, “They can shoot really well. They set a lot of ball screens and got around them and knocked down shots. We had to stay in their face because if you didn’t you knew they were going to make it.”
Highlands started strong from the field, hitting its first five shots and finishing 9 of 13 in the opening frame.
“We need to come out and jump on people,” Bennis said. “If we can come out and jump on people maybe we can come out and play a little bit more zone.
“We really tried to come out strong and adjust from there.”
New Castle got as close as four points on two separate occasions in the second quarter before settling for a 38-32 deficit at the break.
The Golden Rams took charge in the third period, pushing the lead to 66-52 going to the final quarter. Highlands hit 10 field goals in the third, five of which came in transition.
“Maybe we should have looked at a 3-2 zone,” Stanley said of possible second-half adjustments. “But I was just worried with their shooters, if we’re not locating them, I was afraid they would really explode and put it out of reach.”
Jajuan Jay, who picked up his third foul with 1:43 to go in the first half, fouled out with 4:21 remaining in the game. Jay, who netted nine markers, got his fourth foul with 4:25 left and his fifth just four seconds later. The senior guard argued after the fifth foul, waving his arms in a heated protest.
Jay was quickly hit with a technical, and then a second. Jay’s fifth foul sent Mike Trenski to the line for a one-and-one, and he buried both for a 76-62 advantage. Micah Mason then sank three of the four technical free throws and Denzel Carter cashed in a field goal on the ensuing possession off the technicals for an 81-62 buffer with 4:12 to play.
“It’s different in the playoffs, we’re going to play him with the fouls,” Stanley said of Jay picking up three fouls in the opening half. “We’re going to rest them here and there. But you’re dealing with 17-, 18-year-old kids. They’re emotional and he lost it.
“Jajuan sometimes tends to wear his emotions on his sleeve. Jajuan is a good kid with a great personality. It’s a mistake and you live and learn. I’m not upset with him.”
Trenski paced Highlands with 30 points, while Carter and Mason added 23 apiece. Seth Edwards chipped in with 11.
New Castle finished strong, but never cut it under the final margin of 11. Eggleston tallied 11 of his points in the final 3:16, nine of them coming on 3-pointers.
“There was obviously no quit in this team and I loved that,” Stanley said. “They believed they were going to win all the way to the end.”
Marquale May followed Eggleston’s effort with 21 points, 12 of which came in the second half. He also hit four 3-pointers.
Carter added 11 markers for the ’Canes.
New Castle loses four seniors to graduation — Ernie Bester, William Humphrey, Jay and May. The ’Canes have just one junior as well — Jeremy Garver.
“They have to keep their heads on right,” Stanley said of his young players. “Expectations can be poison. Everyone is feeding them things like you’re going to be this or you’re going to be that and that can be poison.
“You have to work hard because someone out there is working just as hard if not harder. The future is bright, but the kids have to grasp it and not believe everything they’re hearing.”