Sunday, March 23, 2014 | 7:11 AM
The New Castle Red Hurricanes did what they had to do, just remain perfect. New Castle finished an amazing three year run with a PIAA Quad-A championship, claiming a 52-39 victory over LaSalle College in front of 6,600 at the Giant Center on Saturday night.
New Castle finishes 31-0 on the season, joining Williamsport in 1984, Carlisle in 1988 and Chester two years ago to go undefeated in Quad-A. The Red Hurricanes are the first WPIAL to finish unbeaten since Sto-Rox accomplished a perfect campaign in 1983.
The Red Hurricanes had come up empty in three other trips to the title game, falling in 1936, 1982 and 1998. New Castle is 87-2 in the last three seasons, winning 3 straight WPIAL championships. 78 of those wins came by 10 or more points.
Malik Hooker led the way with 13 points, the Ohio State football recruit added 13 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 highlight reel blocked shots. The pace was not normal for a New Castle game, the Red Hurricanes led 10-9 after one quarter. The teams combined for just 5 field goals and 13 points in the second, with some tough defense at both ends of the floor.
New Castle pulled away in the third quarter. Drew Allen drove and scored to put New Castle up for good. Jake McPhatter, a Ball State football recruit, nailed his second three-pointer of the quarter, Drew Allen turned on another gear and blew past the Explorers defense for a six point advantage. Leading by three points, Stew Allen picked up his third foul, forcing Coach Ralph Blundo to go to the bench and bring in Levar Ware. The senior, who had played very limited minutes in the last two state playoff games, recorded just 7 minutes, but in that time scored 5 points and snagged 3 rebounds and heightened the enthusiasm for New Castle into the fourth quarter. Blundo said that is what great teams do, that kids come off the bench when their number is called in reference to Ware’s performance.
Leading 30-24 entering the final frame, the Canes started to pull away. McPhatter hit three of four free throws to go up by 9 with 3:54 left in regulation. LaSalle College started to foul to try and extend the game. New Castle, which is not a good free throw shooting team, went 14 of 22 from the line in the fourth, including a stretch of six straight from the charity stripe to put the lead into double digits and start the sea of red and black clad fans into celebration mode.
Drew Allen also scored 13 points. McPhatter scored 9 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Anthony Richards, who is the third best career three-point shooter in WPIAL history, was held off the board for the first three-plus quarters and finished without a field goal and just 4 points.
New Castle shot 17 of 41 for the game at 41 percent, McPhatter had the only trifectas for the Canes. The Red Hurricanes had just 7 turnovers and finished 16 of 27 from the line. New Castle controlled the battle on the glass 36-23.
Najee Wells scored 15 points for the Explorers. Shawn Witherspoon added 10. LaSalle College shot 15 of 40 for 37 percent, the Explorers were 1 of 10 behind the arc and 8-14 from the line.
The District 12 third place team came up just short in their first trip to the title game, finishing at 23-7. The Explorers won over Central to get into the tournament, beat Cedar Crest in overtime in the second round and knocked off District 1 powers Lower Merion and Chester in consecutive games.
The majority of the crowd was from New Castle, the school sold 450 student tickets and blew out their allotment of 1,500 tickes. Numerous calls were taken at the Giant Center box office and Blackhawk allowed New Castle fans to buy from their allotment on Thursday night.
Hooker was asked after the game about the fans, the senior said it’s not what we did for them but what they did for us(the team). He said he wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Hooker finishes his career with 1,617 points, second to David Young in the team’s history. Richards ends with 304 three pointers and is eighth on the New Castle scoring list with 1,120 points. The senior is also the single season and single game three point record holds.
New Castle will not have a chance to defend their titles next season, the Red Hurricanes move back to Class AAA and into another super section with Beaver Falls, Ambridge and WPIAL champion Central Valley. All five starters are moving on to play in college, along with Hooker and McPhatter. Richards is headed to play basketball at West Virginia Wesleyan, Drew Allen has signed to play football at Robert Morris and Stew Allen will hit the gridiron at Duquesne.
The Red Hurricanes take streaks of 31 straight wins, 49 straight victories against WPIAL foes, 12 straight WPIAL playoff wins, 68 consecutive regular season wins, 41 straight section victories and 36 wins in a row at the Ne-Ca-Hi field house.
Score by Quarters:
New Castle Red Hurricanes : 10 – 6 – 14 – 22 = 52
LaSalle College Explorers : 9 – 7 – 8 – 15 = 39
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