Trib HSSN Top 21 Stories of 2021: New Castle basketball adds to trophy case

Sunday, December 26, 2021 | 6:56 PM

The past year wasn’t one giant leap for mankind, but 2021 was one big step back toward “normalcy” for all of us, especially the high school athletes from around the WPIAL.

They were able to do what they love to do: compete on area fields, courts, mats and pools. They did so in front of fans again as the return of the loud and raucous student bodies to various events was like hot cocoa on a frigid night.

As has become a yearend tradition, Trib HSSN winds down the year with a daily countdown and a look back at the top 21 WPIAL stories from 2021.

No. 18: Decade of dominance

Stop me if you heard this one before. The New Castle boys basketball team are the WPIAL champions.

The Red Hurricane defeated Chartiers Valley, 61-45, to win the 2021 WPIAL Class 4A championship. The title was the fourth in five years for New Castle and its 14th district title all-time.

New Castle now has won seven championships since 2012, all under the leadership of Ralph Blundo. In doing so, Blundo became only the fourth coach in WPIAL history to win seven boys basketball crowns.

Read more here.

No. 17: One for the aged

There might have been some eyes rolling when Larry Kelly was named the new baseball coach at Shenango.

Kelly was a proven winner. He was an assistant coach under Ralph Blundo for the New Castle boys basketball program. (see above for their success), and he was nothing but successful throughout his professional career as a lawyer.

However he had just turned 67-years old after being hired. One might think he was a tad on the aged side of things for a rookie coach, right?


Kelly and the Wildcats became just another successful chapter in the dream year for Lawrence County.

Shenango finished 23-3 with a WPIAL championship game upset of Seton LaSalle for district gold and a heartbreaking 8-7 loss to Schuylkill Haven in the PIAA Class 2A title game.

For his efforts, Kelly was named Trib HSSN Class 2A Coach of the Year.

Read more from the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs and postgame awards.

No. 16: How the west was won … again

The PIAA returned to its “normal” postseason format with more than just district champions qualifying for the state playoffs.

The WPIAL dominated the “western” side of the state bracket in the boys and girls soccer playoffs. For the second year in a row, four boys and four girls teams from the District 7 played for state soccer gold in Hershey.

In the 2020 PIAA finals, the WPIAL finished a combined 3-5.

However the Elite Eight from D-7 flipped the script this past fall, winning five state championships and earning silver in three others.

The golden five were Hampton boys in Class 3A, Quaker Valley boys in 2A, Winchester Thurston boys in A, Moon girls in 4A and a repeat for Mars girls in 3A.

Seneca Valley boys in 4A, Avonworth girls in 2A and Greensburg Central Catholic girls in A all brought silver back home to Western Pa.

The five championships sets a PIAA soccer record for most state titles won by any district in a single year.

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