No. 2 New Castle holds off Latrobe to reach WPIAL semifinals for 11th straight season

Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 3:02 PM

New Castle took advantage of some cold Latrobe shooting early on Saturday and rolled to its 11 consecutive WPIAL boys basketball semifinals appearance.

The No. 2-seeded Red Hurricanes provided a balanced scoring attack with all five starters tallying nine points or more in a 65-51 quarterfinal victory over the No. 10 Wildcats at the New Castle Fieldhouse.

Latrobe managed just two field goals and four offensive rebounds in the first quarter as the Red Hurricanes stormed to a 13-6 lead.

The Wildcats were getting some good looks but couldn’t get the ball to fall. To illustrate how things were going in the first half, New Castle’s Isaiah Boice stole the ball, fumbled near his hoop, and the ball fell directly into his hands and he scored a basket to give the Red Hurricanes a 26-15 lead.

New Castle (19-2) will play defending Class 5A champion Laurel Highlands at home at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Red Hurricanes are in the WPIAL playoffs for the 47th time and the 13th straight season.

“We knew it would take as good as we possibly have and even then we’d have to keep our fingers crossed,” Wildcats coach Brad Wetzel said. “This New Castle team is just a terrific team and a terrific program.”

The Red Hurricanes set the tone with six steals in the first half, including one by Donny Cade from the Latrobe key. He went the distance for a basket with 44 seconds to go in the half to give New Castle at 28-15 lead at the intermission.

“This is as tough a basketball game as we’ve been in all year,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “I believe Brad has his players doing what he’s coaching them to do as well as anyone in the WPIAL. They’re not real big, but they’re culture at what they do on both ends of the floor is really something to see.”

Latrobe (8-7) will continue its season in the coming week at home against Greensburg Salem due to a special provision for this year only to allow schools to play regular season games until March 27.

The Wildcats employed full-court pressure to start the third quarter. The scheme worked, as Latrobe cut the lead to single digits five times in the third, but each time the Red Hurricanes responded with key baskets.

Said Wetzel: “We felt we had to get this game to 10 points or under, and we did. But I thought we had a couple plays where we could turn it in to seven or eight and they just wouldn’t allow us to do it. That’s why, I guess, they’ve got all these banners hanging up here.”

Senior Sheldon Cox led the way with 17 points and 10 rebounds. He was 5 of 5 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.

Michael Wells added 16 and Cade 13, including a basket with 4:03 left, giving New Castle its biggest lead of the afternoon, 55-37.

“That’s pretty much been us for the majority of this season,” Blundo said of his balanced scoring attack. “Players can score in different facets and our guys have been in these games before. They stay calm and relaxed and made big plays for us.”

Latrobe, in the playoffs for the 36th time, was led by Drew Clair’s 15 points. Sophomore Landon Butler had 14 points and five steals. Frank Newill collected 15 rebounds.

Watch an archived broadcast of this game on the TribLive High School Sports Network.

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