Knoch ready for battle with three-time defending champ New Castle

Friday, February 21, 2020 | 6:08 PM

The Knoch boys basketball team is starting to get restless.

Since last Tuesday, when the WPIAL announced pairings for this season’s playoffs, the Knights haven’t had the opportunity to play a meaningful game. Sure, they have been able to scrimmage a few teams and get practice, but that’s not the same as playing a game.

On Saturday, the No. 2 Knights (19-3) finally get their chance, and it will be one of the most important games they have played all year as they take on No. 7 New Castle (16-7) at 1:30 pm at North Allegheny.

“I know these guys are really looking forward to playing,” coach Ron McNabb said.

Despite New Castle’s seven losses and its low seeding, the Knights know they can’t overlook the three-time defending WPIAL Class 4A champions.

New Castle won from the No. 1 seed and No. 2 seed and took down Quaker Valley in the finals all three years. So even though the Red Hurricane might be having a down year record-wise, the Knights said they will have no problem staying focused.

“They are a very good team,” senior guard Jake Scheidt said. “They played a lot of hard competition this year, so their record doesn’t say as much as it should. But they are definitely pretty good.”

They Knights used the time off to their advantage.

“I don’t like going this long without playing,” McNabb said. “But we were fortunate enough to get some scrimmages in there and work on some things that we felt like we need to improve on. It’s been really good for us.”

Knoch also used its time off to check out New Castle in action earlier this week during a 64-47 victory over No. 10 Mt. Pleasant. McNabb said it was a valuable trip for his team because watching film isn’t always the same as seeing something in person.

The players echoed their coach’s sentiment, and after seeing their next opponents play, they know what they need to do.

“We just gotta play our type of basketball,” senior Scott Fraser said. “We know what they are going to do, and we are just going to come back with what we do.”

This season, the Red Hurricane has beaten teams like Lincoln Park, Beaver Falls, Central Catholic, Central Valley, Ambridge and Sharpsville. They utilize their speed and have displayed a talent for shooting the ball from deep.

In their first-round matchup against Mt. Pleasant, junior guard Sheldon Cox made nine 3-pointers and scored 29 points. So when they take the floor, McNabb knows they might take a punch or two, but how they respond will tell the story.

“We have our work cut out for us,” McNabb said. “I think if we take that punch in the mouth, with all that pressure they’ll give us and we weather the storm. I think we’ll be OK.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


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