New Castle wins 2nd straight WPIAL championship
The classification had changed but the outcome hadn't.
New Castle again finished undefeated and won its second consecutive WPIAL boys basketball title over Hampton, this time in Class AAAA with a 68-53 victory Saturday night at sold out Palumbo Center.
A season ago, New Castle won the Class AAA title over Hampton.
The Red Hurricanes (26-0) are the first team to win WPIAL championships in successive seasons with an undefeated record.
“It's a huge accomplishment. It really hasn't sunk in yet,” junior Anthony Richards said.
“But being a kid in New Castle, this is exactly what you dream of. This is what we work for our whole lives.”
Three consecutive 3-pointers by Richards in an 80-second span of the second quarter helped launch New Castle to victory.
His first turned a one-point lead into four. The third gave New Castle a 25-18 lead with 5:10 left before halftime.
Two more 3-pointers, by Brandon Domenick and Shawn Anderson, pushed the Red Hurricanes' lead into double figures.
They finished the first half with an 11-2 run and led, 36-22, at halftime.
“To beat New Castle you have to do things well in all facets, otherwise they'll find that weakness and exploit it,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said. “... We were battling in the game with New Castle, but we lost track of shooters sometimes.”
The gap reached 20 points late in the third when a 3-pointer by Rudolph with 10 seconds left gave New Castle a 52-32 lead. The senior was playing with an hurt ankle.
“To gut it out and make big shots like he did was really special,” Blundo said.
Rudolph scored 15 points for No. 1 seed New Castle, Anderson had 16, Richards had 12 and Malik Hooker added 11.
Ryan Luther had 17 points for No. 3 Hampton (21-5), which was making its fourth Palumbo Center trip in the past five seasons.
The WPIAL title was the ninth for New Castle, which beat Hampton, 57-44, in last year's title game.
“You don't ever think of things like that, to go from Triple-A to Quad-A and do it all over again,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said.
“It speaks volumes about the kind of players I have.”
Three-point shooting has been a strength for New Castle, which made 230 this season.
The Red Hurricanes made seven of their first 14 from 3-point range against Hampton, including four first-half threes by Richards.
“That had to happen against them because they're so long inside,” Blundo said.
“We had to extend them out.”
New Castle knew from experience having already played Hampton twice this season as Section 3 rivals.
The Red Hurricanes also won both regular-season meetings: 75-54 on Jan. 15 and 54-50 on Feb. 8.
“The New Castle community is very proud of their basketball team and they should be,” Lafko said.
“This team does some special things on the court.”