New Castle capped its eighth WPIAL Section 3-AAAA title in 10 years by defeating North Allegheny.
By ERIC POOLE
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- In some high school gyms, there are banners to commemorate basketball section titles. But at New Castle, the feats that merit banners are the seven WPIAL championships won by the Red Hurricanes since 1982.
That doesn't mean winning the section has become routine for coach John Sarandrea, whose New Castle squad clinched its eighth WPIAL Section 3-AAAA title in 10 years Tuesday night with a 57-45 victory over North Allegheny.
"It seems like there's not the same luster, but it'll never get old to me," said Sarandrea. "When you win in the section with all the biggest Quad A schools, it's a wonderful accomplishment."
Got big run: New Castle (22-0, 10-0) buried the Tigers (15-7, 9-2) under a 23-4 run in a six-minute span at the end of the first half and the end of the second half. The spurt turned a 18-16 North Allegheny lead into a 38-22 New Castle advantage.
In the Red Hurricanes' 22-point second quarter, Dante Spino and Chris Cain converted three-point plays off steals.
"I think we missed two lay-ups," said first-year North Allegheny coach Rob Greenleaf. "When they got the steals, we made the situation worse by giving them three-point plays."
Spino, who returned to the New Castle lineup Tuesday after a foot injury, scored seven points.
Comeback: North Allegheny mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter behind Brandon Hoffman, who scored 10 of his game-high 25 points in the final frame. But the Tigers could never get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Hoffman, a 6-6 senior, led all rebounders with 11. Hoover Gibson, who scored eight points, topped the Red Hurricanes with seven boards.
Dom Joseph led New Castle with 18 points, even though fouls limited his playing time.
"Every time he came out, we struggled," said Sarandrea. "Every time he went in, we pulled away."
Foul shooting: North Allegheny's comeback bid was hampered by New Castle's fourth-quarter foul shooting. The Red Hurricanes, who hit 21-of-24 fouls on the night, went 8-for-8 in the final period, including a 4-for-4 performance by Mark DeMonaco, who finished with 10 points.
To claim second place outright, the Tigers still need to beat North Hills Tuesday.
New Castle needs to stay undefeated in its last two games to have any hope of edging out Uniontown for the top seed in the Class AAAA playoffs.
Uniontown has one loss, but it came against a team from out of state.
Eye record: If the Red Hurricanes can stay unbeaten, it will set a school record, topping the 1998-99 team that went 23-1 in the regular season and won the WPIAL title.
"You are looking at a team that could be 24-0 and not be the top seed," said Sarandrea.