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New Castle survives scare, advances to PIAA Class AAAA title game

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014, 10:27 p.m.
 

CHAMBERSBURG — Known for his acrobatics above the rim, New Castle's Malik Hooker celebrated this time flat on his back beneath it.

With New Castle clinging to a one-point lead, Hooker drew a charge with 10 seconds left in Tuesday night's 58-54 victory over Abington in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal. Abington had a furious fourth-quarter rally to lead briefly, but the offensive foul stole its momentum.

“I felt like we needed something like that,” said Hooker, who met Abington junior Matthew Penecale in the lane with New Castle ahead 55-54. “I'd seen him coming with a full head of steam from the 3-point line. It looked like he was out of control, so I stepped in and took a big-time charge. It ended up helping us win the game.”

WPIAL champion New Castle (30-0) advances to the PIAA championship for the first time since 1998. La Salle College awaits in the Saturday's 8 p.m. final at Giant Center in Hershey.

La Salle (23-6) was the third-place team from District 12, which includes Philadelphia's public and Catholic schools. The Explorers beat PIAA runner-up Chester, 61-55, on Tuesday.

“I'm happy, but I'm still not satisfied,” Hooker said. “I want a state championship.”

Anthony Richards led New Castle with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Hooker had 15, and Stew Allen had 11.

A year ago, New Castle finished one game short of Hershey when it lost to Lower Merion in the state semifinals. This time, the Red Hurricanes held off another team from District 1. Abington (25-6) was the sixth-place team from the suburban Philadelphia district.

New Castle had led by 11 points with 3:08 left. Yet that 51-40 lead dwindled with a 10-0 Abington run and disappeared completely when junior Anthony Lee made a layup with 40 seconds left to move Abington ahead 54-53.

“It wasn't that we were playing bad defense,” Hooker said. “They were making great shots.”

But Abington's lead lasted just seconds. Hooker threw a long outlet pass to Stew Allen, whose breakaway layup let New Castle reclaim a 55-54 lead and momentum.

“It was just a crafty play by a veteran ballplayer,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said of Hooker's pass.

With Abington trailing by one, Penecale's driving shot fell through the rim, but officials quickly called the him for the charge. Rather than having Penecale on the foul line with a one-point lead, New Castle kept its lead and had the ball.

“I was higher out than usual, and he hit me dead on,” Hooker said, “so I kind of knew it was a charge.”

After two free throws by Richards, Abington's Jordan Neeley missed a tying 3-pointer with 3 seconds left, and New Castle's Jake McPhatter grabbed the rebound. Drew Allen made a free throw with 0.6 left.

New Castle fans, which accounted for most of the near-capacity crowd, flooded the floor after the buzzer.

“Malik stood in there and took that charge,” Blundo said, “and I give the official a lot of credit. It was the right call no matter what the situation in the game.”

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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