Hooker's big 2nd half leads No. 2 New Castle past No. 1 Beaver Falls

Chris Harlan
| Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, 11:15 p.m.

New Castle's Marquel Hooker remembers last year's rivalry with Beaver Falls this way: he fouled out three times and the Red Hurricanes lost all three.

Back in Beaver Falls' crowded gym, the senior reached halftime Friday with three more fouls, but this time stuck around for the entire second half. Hooker overcame first-half foul trouble, scored 21 of his 27 points after halftime and led No. 2 New Castle to a 75-53 victory over host No. 1 Beaver Falls in Section 2-AAA.

Hooker scored 13 in the third quarter as New Castle turned a 27-27 halftime tie into a double-digit lead. The Red Hurricanes reached halftime on a 14-2 run, and exited it with a 13-2 run.

The momentum built, and New Castle led 47-33 after a 3-pointer by Hooker midway through the third quarter.

“My coach said, we need you on the floor,” Hooker said. “When I got my third foul, I had to play smart.”

The matchup drew a soldout crowd to Beaver Falls' 1,300-seat gym.

Beaver Falls won both regular-season matchups last season, and eliminated New Castle in the WPIAL semifinals. The teams will meet again Feb. 2 at New Castle.

“It is absolutely tremendous,” Hooker said. “We counted down to this day.”

Marcus Hooker scored 13 points despite foul trouble, and Geno Stone had 11 for New Castle (13-0, 6-0).

“This was just a big win to have on the road,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said.

Josh Creach scored 17 points and Donovan Jeter had 16, but Beaver Falls (11-2, 5-1) couldn't exploit the size advantage the two junior forwards provided.

Jeter had just four points each in the third and fourth quarters. Creach had seven in the third, and two in the fourth.

“(New Castle) created chaos it seems,” Beaver Falls coach Doug Biega said. “They pushed our entire offense away from the basket, not just Josh and Donovan. When our guards saw that crack of sunlight (in the defense), they took it and drove to the basket instead of getting through it and establishing a possession where we could have established Josh and Donovan inside.”

Yet, early in the second quarter, Beaver Falls was the team that appeared headed for a double-digit victory. The Tigers outrebounded New Castle, 16-4, in the first quarter and had built a 25-13 lead early in the second.

Foul trouble then struck Beaver Falls' young backcourt.

“We don't have the depth to withstand that,” Biega said. “Once we had our guards out of the rotation, we weren't able to handle the pressure the way we had been earlier. And momentum is a very difficult thing to repossess once you lose it.”

New Castle finished the first half with a 14-2 run, and partly without Marquel Hooker, who drew a third foul with 1:41 left until halftime.

“Finally, we were able to get a bunch of stops in a row,” Blundo said, “and just kind of picked away at it until we tied it at the half.”

The game-tying run included a 9-0 stretch, with a put-back basket by undersized center Pat Minenok. New Castle outrebounded Beaver Falls, 13-10, in the second quarter.

Two free throws by New Castle's Garret Farah forced a 27-27 tie in the final minute before half. New Castle's 13-2 run followed.

“We came out inexplicably flat in the third quarter,” Biega said. “I could see it in our eyes. I could see it in our body language that we were flat. I even commented to the team, the beginning of this third quarter is going to tell me a story here. You guys kind of look flat. You'd better refocus.”

Beaver Falls was outscored 26-16 in the third quarter. With a 10-point lead after three, New Castle outscored Beaver Falls, 22-10, in the fourth. Hooker had eight points in the fourth quarter to erase last year's memories.

“It definitely was hard,” Hooker said of last season, “because I knew my team needed me. They came out on top (in 2015), but it's a new year.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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