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No. 1 New Castle holds off Hampton as Class AAAA stars Luther, Hooker shine

| Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, 10:30 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
New Castle's Malik Hooker fouls Hampton's Ryan Luther, as Drew Allen looks on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, at New Castle.

New Castle already had clinched the section title, but Malik Hooker wanted more.

“I'm out here to prove we're the best team, and that's kind of what we did,” said Hooker, who scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to seal Friday night's 66-55 victory over Section 3 rival Hampton. The much-anticipated matchup between WPIAL title contenders drew an overflow crowd to New Castle's 2,400-seat gym.

Hampton's Ryan Luther scored 28 points and led a second-half Talbots surge that was gaining momentum until Hooker helped keep this rivalry leaning in New Castle's favor.

“They're two great players,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “(Luther) obviously made some great plays, and so did Malik.”

It was the Red Hurricanes' sixth victory over Hampton in the past three seasons. That includes the WPIAL Class AAA title game in 2012 and the Class AAAA championship in '13.

The win extended New Castle's regular-season winning streak and should clinch it the No. 1 seed in Class AAAA when the WPIAL playoff brackets are released Tuesday.

Stew Allen added 14 points for No. 1 New Castle (21-0, 14-0). David Huber had 11 for No. 3 Hampton (19-3, 11-3).

In a 16-second span, Hooker made a driving layup and foul shot, a steal that drew an intentional foul and then two more free throws to stretch what had been a four-point lead with little less than two minutes left.

“That was an incredibly athletic move,” Hampton coach Joe Lafko said. “That's not the only athletic play he made, but that was a back-breaker that I thought sealed the game for New Castle. Our guys' heads went down as soon as that happened.”

“That's something I felt like I had to make for my team,” Hooker said.

New Castle needed Hooker to match Luther's effort, which included 18 points in the second half.

Luther narrowed what had been a 14-point lead in the third quarter to 55-51 with 1:50 left.

New Castle won the first matchup Jan. 14 at Hampton, 58-42. Luther, a Pitt recruit, missed that game with a injured ankle. But he shined in the rematch. He started with just two first-quarter points.

But he had eight in the second, seven in the third and 11 in the fourth.

Combined, New Castle trailed for just 40 seconds in the first quarter. A layup and free throw by David Huber with 1:33 left gave Hampton an 10-8 lead.

But New Castle's Anthony Richards reclaimed the lead on a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left in the quarter.

A 3-pointer by Huber cut the lead to 21-20 in the second quarter, but New Castle responded with a 9-0 run. New Castle led 30-23 at halftime.

“It's going to happen,” Lafko said. “I told our team again, we're getting closer.”

Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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