New Castle caps unbeaten season by winning PIAA Class AAAA title
TribLIVE Sports Videos
HERSHEY — New Castle can finally add a state title to its bundle of WPIAL championships.
Malik Hooker and Drew Allen each had 13 points, and New Castle won its first PIAA basketball title with a 52-39 victory over Philadelphia's La Salle College on Saturday night in the Class AAAA final at Giant Center.
The Red Hurricanes won their 10th WPIAL title earlier this season and third consecutive, but never had won in Hershey.
“This is something our community has been chasing for a lot of years,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “I just know how important it is to them. To see my guys accomplish something special, that's what it's all about.”
This season came with a perfect ending.
New Castle (31-0) became only the fourth undefeated Class AAAA boys champion since the PIAA added its largest basketball classification in 1984. It joins Williamsport (30-0 in 1984), Carlisle (33-0 in 1988) and Chester (32-0 in 2012).
No WPIAL boys team in any classification had finished as an undefeated state champion since Sto-Rox won the Class AA title in 1983.
“There is no feeling to describe it,” Hooker said. “We've been trying to get this done since the eighth grade, and to finally achieve it with all the hard work and effort, it's the best feeling in the world.”
Saturday night's doubleheader with the Class AAA girls final drew 6,641, with many wearing red and black.
“New Castle is unique,” Blundo said. “You see all of these people here? There are some who would spend their last dime to come support these kids.”
The 52 points were a season low for the Red Hurricanes, but they'd never celebrated more. The low-scoring style was more familiar for La Salle (23-7), the third-place team from District 12 (Philadelphia Catholic and public schools).
La Salle owned a few low-scoring wins. The Explorers beat St. Joseph's Prep, 38-33, in the state playoffs, and had a 39-31 regular-season win over Conwell-Egan.
New Castle had averaged 72.7 points this season. The Red Hurricanes scored more than 80 points nine times; three times, they reached 90. Their lowest point total this season was 55 against Hampton in the PIAA semifinals.
Tied 16-16 at halftime, New Castle broke through in the second half when senior Jake McPhatter made two 3-pointers and Hooker scored nine of his 13 points. A layup by Hooker with 3 seconds left in the third quarter provided a spark and a 30-24 lead.
“Coach Blundo is a great coach, and we made adjustments,” senior Anthony Richards said. “We got the ball into our best players' hands. We locked down defensively and got the win.”
With four points from both Drew and Stew Allen, New Castle led 10-9 after one quarter. La Salle took its first lead, 13-12, when junior Najee Wells made two free throws 3 minutes into the second quarter. It was the first of four lead changes in a two-minute span. The fourth lead change on a layup by Hooker gave New Castle a 16-15 lead.
A free throw by La Salle's Shawn Witherspoon with 1.5 seconds left forced a halftime tie.
Neither team made a 3-pointer in the first half. La Salle was 0 for 4. New Castle was 0 for 5, with Richards missing four times. But two third-quarter threes by McPhatter sparked a 10-2 New Castle run that turned a two-point deficit into a six-point lead.
New Castle led 26-20 after a layup by Drew Allen with 3:50 left in the third.
New Castle led 30-24 after three and pulled away slowly in the fourth. With 30 seconds left, New Castle's lead peaked at 13 points.
New Castle last reached the state championship in 1998 and lost the Class AAAA final to Harrisburg, 69-53. The Red Hurricanes also were state runners-up in 1936 to Newport Township, 36-34, and to Whitehall, 42-38, in 1982.
New Castle was 29-0 last season when it lost to Lower Merion in the state semifinals, and 27-0 in 2011-12 before a second-round loss to Montour.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Locke the choice to be 5th starter
- Spring training breakdown: Pirates 18, Phillies 4
- NFL coaches weigh in on Polamalu’s legacy
- Body pulled from river in Charleroi
- NFL notebook: Browns GM suspended, team fined for ‘Text-gate’
- Pittsburgh man’s bid to delay trial rejected
- Pirates’ outfield may have few defensive peers
- Man shot in Hill District
- Falling bricks close 2 Squirrel Hill businesses
- Penguins’ Letang leaves hospital, out with concussion
- Charges against Wash High aide accused of having sex with student withdrawn