New Castle defeats Indiana for 7th straight PIAA tournament victory
WPIAL champion Indiana had faced teams with quick feet or quick hands, but never both.
New Castle became the exception.
“This was a combination I don't think we've seen,” Indiana coach Greg Lezanic said after Tuesday night's 50-43 loss to New Castle in the PIAA Class AAA second round at North Allegheny.
“They could knock balls out of our hands on rebounds. They'd tip them up in the air to keep them alive. Then the quick feet could come in and swoop the ball away.” Four inches shorter than any Indiana starter, New Castle junior Marquel Hooker had 11 rebounds, 12 points and made two 3-pointers in the fourth to take the lead.
His brother Marcus had 16 points, six rebounds and his own crucial 3 in the fourth.
“I feel like for their size, we out-hustled them,” said Hooker, who had six offensive rebounds. “We got to the boards more. We went after loose balls.”
Senior Blake Shields led Indiana with 20 points. But the Indians were outscored 20-8 in the fourth quarter when the team made just two shots and three free throws.
“I'm proud to say I think my guys have an amazing will about them,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “For me, that means more than anything.”
Last year's state Class AAAA champion, New Castle (22-5) has won seven PIAA playoff games in a row.
Indiana (25-3) held a significant height advantage and an eight-point lead in the third quarter.
But with rebounds and turnovers, New Castle held Indiana scoreless for more than seven minutes in the fourth as it rallied ahead with a 15-0 run.
“It seemed like they got to every loose ball,” Lezanic said, “but it wasn't because of a lack of effort. Those (New Castle) hands were always going, knocking the ball loose, and then the feet took over and got the basketball.”
New Castle forced 19 turnovers and out-rebounded Indiana, 28-25, with 14 offensive boards. Twice in the final minutes New Castle rebounded missed foul shots.
“Whether they're in the air or on the floor, we're going to increase possessions by getting most, if not all, of those balls,” Blundo said.
But defense and rebounds took New Castle only so far. Against Indiana's zone, New Castle went 2 for 17 from the 3-point line in the first three quarters and trailed 35-28 late in the third.
In the fourth, the Red Hurricanes found their shot and made 4 for 6 from the arc.
Three in a row came from the Hooker brothers.
The first by Marquel came 20 seconds into the fourth, and one by Marcus came 90 seconds later.
When Marquel hit the third in a row, New Castle led 39-37 with 5:17 left.
“You hate to simplify, but eventually the ball went in,” Blundo said. “I thought we guarded well all game. We just didn't shoot it well early.”
With 4 minutes left, New Castle sophomore Geno Stone hit another to lead 46-37. New Castle finished 6 for 23 from the arc.
“The momentum was so strong down the stretch that it was hard for them to get it going the other way,” Blundo said.
New Castle never trailed in the first half and led 17-16 at halftime. The teams combined for nine second-quarter points.
With New Castle ahead 26-25 in the third, Indiana's Kevin Jack hit consecutive threes. Two baskets by Shields and one by Riley Stapleton gave the Indians a 35-28 lead with 40 seconds left in the third.
But it disappeared 3 minutes into the fourth.