New Castle backs up No. 1 ranking with victory over No. 2 Chartiers Valley

Tuesday, January 19, 2021 | 10:20 PM

New Castle joined a larger classification this winter but the results seem much the same.

The top-ranked Red Hurricanes cooled down one of the WPIAL’s hottest scorers Tuesday night and ran away with a lopsided win over No. 2 Chartiers Valley, 73-45, solidifying their spot as the top team in Class 5A.

They owned a double-digit lead before the first quarter was over and had five scorers finish in double figures.

Sheldon Cox led New Castle (5-0, 3-0) with 15 points, Michael Wells and Michael Graham scored 14 apiece, and Isaiah Boice and Jonathon Anderson each added 11. Wells also grabbed 11 rebounds, Cox had nine and Boice had eight.

The team averages 80.8 points per game, best in the WPIAL.

Enrollment numbers put New Castle in Class 5A this season after winning WPIAL 4A titles three of the past four years. This matchup at Chartiers Valley was expected to be the team’s first early-season test in Section 2-5A, yet New Castle was in control throughout.

“I like that we’re 5-0,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said, “but there are dozens of controllable mistakes out there that we have to fix that are a little bit effort-related, a little bit focus-related and a little bit grit-related. Because we’ve had some success, we know what championship basketball looks like and what you have to do to get there.

”We’re not there yet but we’re coming.”

The Red Hurricanes sprinted to a 19-6 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. It helped them that Chartiers Valley struggled to make shots from almost anywhere on the floor, an off night that affected Colts star Brayden Reynolds as well.

A 28-point scorer entering Tuesday, Reynolds was held to 19 points and only seven in the first half. New Castle didn’t use any exotic schemes against him but was able to force the senior into an 8-for-27 shooting night.

Chartiers Valley was coming off a win over North Allegheny where the Colts made 16 3-pointers, shot 53% from beyond the arc and Reynolds scored 25 points.

That efficiency was missing Tuesday.

As a team, Chartiers Valley shot 36% from the field (18 of 50) and made only 6 of 23 attempts from the 3-point line.

“We couldn’t get in a rhythm offensively,” Chartiers Valley coach Brandon Sensor said. “We had trouble, got a little stagnant and weren’t moving the ball well. We had some good shots but we took a lot of bad shots. We took deep ones, some contested ones, missed on a ton of layups.”

Chartiers Valley went 3 for 13 shooting in the first quarter and Reynolds missed his first four attempts from the 3-point line. The 6-foot-3 guard did electrify his team with a first-quarter dunk but that energy faded.

“When the ball’s not moving, everybody’s keying on him,” Sensor said. “We’ve got to find ways for when we get against that tough defense to get people moving. That will open up things for him.”

When facing a top scorer for the first time, Blundo said he’d rather stick with what his defense traditionally does well than try something new right away. So New Castle leaned on its usual schemes, but Blundo also decided to press less than usual.

“Because Reynolds is so dangerous, we didn’t pressure the way that we normally do,” Blundo said. “We thought it was more important to keep a body on a body.”

That caught Chartiers Valley a little by surprise.

“We thought we would get a lot more open looks because of their pressure,” Sensor said. “He kind of switched up his style a little bit.”

Chartiers Valley cut the deficit to nine points at half before New Castle extended its lead to 57-38 in the third quarter. The Red Hurricanes shot 52% from the field (29 of 55) and 40% from the arc (8 of 20) overall.

The teams rematch Feb. 12 at New Castle.

“We’ve got to get tougher,” Sensor said. “That’s the biggest thing, our effort and our heart. Hats off to New Castle, they played harder than us, they wanted it more than us. We’ve got to get everybody on the court giving every ounce of energy they have.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at or via Twitter .

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