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For 3rd straight season, New Castle tops Hampton for WPIAL championship

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 8:39 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
New Castle celebrates their 55-49 win in the WPIAL Boys AAAA basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday March 1, 2014.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
New Castle's Stew Allen puts up a shot with Hampton's Collin Luther defending during the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game Saturday March 1, 2014, at the A. J. Palumbo Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
New Castle's Malik Hooker (23) and his teammates celebrate their 55-49 win in the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Fans, mostly from New Castle, wait in a line which wraps around the A. J. Palumbo Center to enter the WPIAL boys Class AAAA basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Fans, mostly from New Castle, wait in a line which wraps around the A. J. Palumbo Center to enter the WPIAL boys Class AAAA basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday, March 1, 2014.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Hampton's Ryan Luther looks wearily and exhausted after losing to New Castle in the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game Saturday, March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle beat Hampton, 55-49.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
New Castle's Malik Hooker reaches for a rebound against Hampton in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game Saturday, March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle beat Hampton, 55-49.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
New Castle's fans cheer their team in the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle beat Hampton, 55-49.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
New Castle's Anthony Richards tries to call for a timeout as Hampton's David Huber (22) and Colin Luther pressure him in the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday, March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle beat Hampton, 55-49.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Hampton's Chandler McKinney goes flying over New Castle's Malik Hooker and his teammate, Ryan Luther, in the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday, March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle beat Hampton, 55-49.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Hampton's Ryan Luther dunks the ball in the WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game against Hampton on Saturday March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle beat Hampton, 55-49.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and Pitt head basketball coach Jamie Dixon make an appearance at the New Castle-Hampton WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball championship game Saturday, March 1, 2014, at A.J. Palumbo Center. New Castle beat Hampton, 55-49.

After winning a third consecutive WPIAL title with an unbeaten record each time, New Castle coach Ralph Blundo searched for words.

“I'd love to put it into some type of perspective, but I can't,” said Blundo, whose team won the Class AAAA title Saturday night with a 55-49 victory over Hampton at soldout Palumbo Center. “I've played sports my whole life. I know how hard it is to win 78 consecutive WPIAL games and (three) undefeated WPIAL championships.”

New Castle was Class AAA champion in 2012 and has won the Class AAAA title the past two seasons. All three were won with 26-0 records.

And each time, Hampton (22-4) watched New Castle celebrate. This was the seventh meeting in three seasons between the Section 3 rivals, and New Castle has won them all.

The Red Hurricanes won this season's regular-season matchups 66-55 and 58-42.

“It's certainly frustrating,” said Hampton coach Joe Lafko. “(We've) been here in this WPIAL championship game. They know the taste of a silver rather than gold. They are absolutely frustrated.”

Stew Allen led No. 1 New Castle with 18 points and Drew Allen had 14.

With Malik Hooker held to six points and Anthony Richards held to seven, the Red Hurricanes found scoring elsewhere.

“We've always felt we were a really good basketball team,” said Blundo, with an emphasis on team.

“Coach Blundo let us know that other guys are going to be wide open, so be ready,” said Allen, a 6-foot-3 Duquesne football recruit.

Ryan Luther had 18 points for Hampton, which sprinted to a 13-2 lead behind a 1-3-1 zone.

Against it, New Castle went more than four minutes with just one basket.

But New Castle rallied with 12 first-half points by Stew Allen, including six of eight points in an 8-0 first-quarter run that pulled New Castle within five.

“He has the ability to catch and finish,” Blundo said of Stew Allen. “That's really all he had to do in a lot of cases. That sounds easy, but with 6-foot-8 Ryan Luther contesting it, it's a little more difficult.”

A basket by Drew Allen 6:44 before halftime gave New Castle its first lead, 22-20. The Red Hurricanes trailed 17-16 after the first quarter but led 31-26 at halftime. New Castle's lead peaked at 39-29 when Drew Allen made a 3 with 4:25 left in the third quarter.

“You couldn't ask for a better start,” Lafko said. “But the second quarter turned the tempo of the game.”

With 7 minutes left, Hampton closed to 45-42 and had two chances to tie. But Hampton's first possession ended with New Castle's Drew Allen stealing the ball. On the next possession, Luther missed a 3-pointer. A layup by Stew Allen and a breakaway dunk by Hooker allowed New Castle to extend its lead to 49-42 with 5:42 left. Hampton never moved closer than six points.

“New Castle just made a few more plays,” Lafko said.

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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