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New Castle's athleticism too much for Kiski Area

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By George Guido
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 11:09 p.m.
 

Every tournament season, fans get to watch stellar athletes. Wednesday night was no exception as Kiski Area and other Alle-Kiski Valley followers got a look at New Castle's Malik Hooker.

The Ohio State football recruit led the Red Hurricanes' 77-23 victory with 20 points, six rebounds, eight steals, two assists and a monster dunk late in the first half as New Castle (25-0) earned a berth in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game. The Red Hurricanes face Section 3-AAAA rival Hampton for the third consecutive season at 7 p.m. Saturday at Palumbo Center.

New Castle put on a defensive clinic before an overflow crowd at North Allegheny, forcing 20 Kiski Area turnovers in the first half and 29 in the game.

Hooker said the team has the knack of anticipating passes and got a considerable amount of points off turnovers against the Cavaliers.

“We came out focused tonight and came out with unmatched energy,” Hooker said. “Our guys get out with their energy and high tempo, and makes it hard to pass. It was easy to read, and we were reading it like a book.”

Kiski Area coach Joey Tutchstone has seen plenty of great athletes during his playing and coaching days, and Hooker is among the best.

“He's right there at the top, definitely,” Tutchstone said. “For him at 6-foot-1 to get up there and take off and finish like that. I haven't seen that. It's remarkable.”

The toughest part for Tutchstone and a number of other coaches is getting someone to simulate Hooker and the Red Hurricanes' defense in practice.

“You go 6-on-5, 7-on-5 even 8-on-5, and you still can't imitate the athleticism they're going to bring,” the first-year coach said.

New Castle had 17 steals, and Kiski Area only got off 16 shots during the first half.

For the game, Kiski Area was 9 of 30 from the field.

New Castle coach Ralph Blundo, though noting Hooker's contributions, credited the team for its stalwart defense.

“You can see Malik's a big-time, Division I athlete,” Blundo said. “The defense was as good as you can guard. We were in the right places. A ton of energy, great communication. That's how you hold them to 23 points.”

Meanwhile, Hooker's steal and slam in the second period has a chance to make YouTube, much like his dunk from last Saturday's game at Ambridge.

“It's a great experience,” Hooker said. “I'm just out there playing. You make a great play, and the next thing you know, you're on YouTube. It's a great thing.”

Kiski Area will enter PIAA tournament play March 8. If New Castle defeats Hampton, the Cavaliers will play the winner of Erie McDowell and DuBois. That game tentatively is scheduled for that afternoon.

If Hampton defeats New Castle, Kiski Area will face the Altoona-State College winner.

Tutchstone plans to give his players a few days off.

“I think the guys need a little time off,” Tutchstone said. “We'll get back at it Monday. Let the guys get away from basketball and let them be kids.”

Kiski Area last played in the PIAA tournament in 2004.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

 

 
 


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