Trib HSSN boys basketball team of the week for Feb. 6, 2023

Monday, February 6, 2023 | 11:58 PM

When New Castle star senior Isaiah Boice went down with a fracture in his foot in early January, there were some who thought the top-ranked WPIAL Class 6A boys basketball team was in big trouble.

“This is the first major injury I’ve dealt with in 13 years as a coach,” New Castle’s Ralph Blundo said. “I was concerned for him that he would never be able to put that uniform on again. He’s a future college player, so that in and of itself, I was very happy he had the chance to step back on the court again.”

Doctors said it would be six to eight weeks before Boice could return, but he was back in uniform 25 days later on Monday for a key Section 1-6A contest against second-place Butler.

“They tried a graphite plate, kind of like what (Pittsburgh Steelers running back) Najee Harris was wearing, but he hated it,” Blundo said. “He said his foot was pain free, so I told him this was up to your doctors. The doctors said he was fine and good to go. As long as he doesn’t have any pain, wear the brace and tape him up.”

Boice was limited in his first game back, but his Red Hurricane teammates picked up the slack.

Senior Da’Juan Young scored 22 points, senior Nick Wallace had 18 and senior Jonathan Anderson also added 18 points as New Castle outscored Butler, 18-8 in the second quarter to take control and win 64-49.

“I told our guys that you were going to be part of something that’s different,” Blundo said. “We hadn’t played them since 2014 before this year. It was a great rivalry going back to the 90s. We played well, really well, and being able to beat Butler was big.”

While Butler fell a peg in the section standings with that loss, New Castle’s next opponent was Central Catholic on the road. The Vikings not only took over second place after Tuesday, they were also ranked No. 2 behind the ‘Canes in the latest Trib HSSN Top 5.

“Believe it or not for me, that was the first time I had ever been there,” Blundo said. “I’ve been doing this since 1996 and I had never been to Central Catholic’s gym. It’s a unique experience. It’s a different type of home-court advantage. People right on top of you. New Castle fans in your huddle, thinking they are actually a part of what’s going on in there.”

New Castle led by eight points at halftime and pulled away to a win 67-53. Young again led the team in scoring with 22 points while Anderson and Boice each chipped in 18 points.

“We played well, obviously,” Blundo said. “You’re not going to go to Central Catholic and beat Central Catholic unless you play really well that night. We played well offensively, and we defended really well. We did enough to win and get ourselves at least a share of the section championship in 6A.”

New Castle can clinch the section crown outright and likely the Class 6A No. 1 seed with a win Tuesday at home against Pine-Richland. The Red Hurricane closes out section play Friday at Seneca Valley.

With Boice rounding back into game shape, his absence in the lineup for most of January was an issue. However, the experience picked up by the likes of senior Byron Lett, senior Angelo Cialella and freshman Nate McKnight could help the ‘Canes in what they hope is a long postseason run.

“It was messy at first,” Blundo said of when Boice first went down. “Those guys didn’t have the comfort level they needed to have. But over time, I think it gave us an opportunity to give some other guys some minutes and the depth it hopefully creates that we may need down the stretch.”

Under Blundo, the New Castle program has been dominant, winning seven WPIAL championships in the last 11 years. They are the favorite in 6A; however, Blundo knows it will not be easy to add more gold to the NeCa High collection.

“I tell you, 6A is so unique,” he said. “I’ve said I think you are going to see some interesting this happen. One could lose to eight and two could lose to seven and it would be considered as upset from the media, but for the teams playing, they wouldn’t see it that way. Seneca Valley might be 3-5 in our league, but they are as good as anybody in 6A, including us. That’s not coach-speak. That’s reality.”

Trib HSSN Boys Basketball Teams of the Week

Week 4 – Hampton Talbots

Week 3 – Mohawk Warriors

Week 2 – Central Catholic Vikings

Week 1 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars


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