New Castle boys hold on to beat No. 2 seeded Knoch

Saturday, February 22, 2020 | 4:41 PM

When the playoffs roll around, New Castle instantly becomes a tough team to beat and Knoch learned that the hard way Saturday afternoon at North Allegheny.

At one point in the second half, the No. 7 Red Hurricanes (17-7) had built an 11-point lead on the second-seeded Knights (19-4). With about two minutes left in the fourth, the Knights came charging back and took a one-point lead on a Scott Fraser 3-pointer.

But that was the last time the Knights scored.

New Castle sophomore Michael Wells answered Fraser’s 3-pointer with a layup to go up one, then sealed the game with another 3-pointer moments later as the three-time defending champion Red Hurricanes held on for a 56-50 WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal victory.

“These kids are young. They give me gray hair sometimes, but I’m proud of them,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “There are all types of playoffs games to win, but when you win this way against a veteran group like Knoch, it’s a great win.”

Right out of the gate, the Knights took control of the game. Jake Scheidt hit two 3-pointers and led his team to a 12-5 lead after four minutes of play.

New Castle stuck around. They produced a 19-point second quarter and with about two minutes remaining, they took a 25-23 lead on a Wells layup. By halftime, they extended that lead to four.

Out of the break, New Castle started to impose their will and with just under five minutes remaining they had extended their lead to nine. But, throughout the week, the Knights had talked about staying calm when New Castle had their run.

“We just told the kids it’s a street fight,” Knoch coach Ron McNabb said. “You’re going to get punched in the mouth and you are either going to walk away afraid or you are going to fight back and our kids fought back.”

Slowly but surely, the Knights chipped away. Jake Scheidt hit a layup with just under three-minutes remaining in the third quarter. Then, Fraser hit back-to-back layups and with just over a minute left. All of a sudden the New Castle lead was down to one.

“At halftime, we just told him to go out and just play,” McNabb said about Fraser after scoring just two points in the first half. “So, he hit a couple threes and got a little more physical inside and that was the Scott Fraser we are used to seeing.”

The two teams went back and forth throughout the fourth quarter, trading the lead a few times.

With about four minutes left in the game, the Knights led by four, but the Red Hurricanes responded with a run of their own and took a 49-47 lead with three minutes left on a Sheldon Cox free throw.

“We made some mistakes that helped their (Knoch’s) cause a little bit, but credit to them for getting back in the game. They did that,” Blundo said. “I just think that sometimes culture prepares you for some things.”

“For us to blow an 11-point lead and to bounce back and make a couple of really big plays to win the game.”

Fraser answered with his three with about two minutes remaining and Wells took over from there, scoring four straight points to push his team ahead for good.

“I just come out and play whenever my team needs me,” Wells said. “I play my role. Whether my teammates are open when they are closing in on me. I always feel like I have an advantage on the offensive end, no matter who is guarding me.”

The Red Hurricanes will play No. 6 Belle Vernon (18-6), which upset No. 3 Quaker Valley in its quarterfinal game.

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

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