The unbeaten Red Hurricanes will face Uniontown in the AAAA title matchup.
By ERIC POOLE
PITTSBURGH -- Excuse John Sarandrea if he's got that deja vu thing going on.
Saturday, after all, will be the New Castle (27-0) basketball coach's fifth trip to the WPIAL (District 7) Class AAAA championship game in nine years. The Red Hurricanes punched their tickets to another title game Wednesday night with a 70-66 victory over Kiski (22-5) at the Palumbo Center.
But Sarandrea's nostalgic feelings don't come from his own squad but from Uniontown (26-1), the team he will face on Saturday.
"Uniontown reminds me very much of our team in 1999," said Sarandrea. "They have three 1,000-point scorers [Terrance Vaughns, Dierre Jenkins and Chris Jacobs] like we did. They have a wealth of playoff experience."
That comparison puts Uniontown in some pretty strong company.
Best team: New Castle's 1999 team, led by 1,000-point scorers David Young, Ed Pagley and Desmond Whetzel, won three consecutive WPIAL titles.
Young, who holds the Red Hurricanes' scoring record with 1,958 points, is now playing at Xavier University.
Even though the '99 Red Hurricanes were regarded as one of the best teams in WPIAL history, Sarandrea says the comparison between that team and this year's Uniontown team is fitting.
"I believe Uniontown is the favorite and they've proved they're the best team. Until someone from the WPIAL beats them, they're the best," he said.
But Kiski came close to preventing Saturday's matchup. New Castle got sloppy with the ball in the second quarter -- the Red Hurricanes committed 14 of their 20 turnovers in the first half -- allowing Kiski to establish a 32-26 halftime lead.
Senior Dom Joseph, who scored 17 points to share the team lead with Mark DeMonaco, had seven points in the third quarter and two assists in the fourth.
"That won the game. We moved him [on the perimeter] and he took some shots and he made some good passes," said Sarandrea of Joseph.
Key baskets: DeMonaco hit a three-pointer with 37 seconds remaining in the third period to tie the score at 47. DeMonaco's shot came in the middle of a 13-2 run that put New Castle in the lead to stay. But Sarandrea credited the senior guard for his defense as much for his offense.
The 5-foot-9 DeMonaco drew Kiski's Joey Tuchstone, a 6-3 point guard. Even though Tuchstone scored 22 points, he had key misses in the fourth quarter as New Castle pulled away.
Chris Cain came off the bench to score 10 points for New Castle. Corey Smith scored 18 for Kiski.
But Smith missed a wide-open dunk with just over five minutes remaining and his team trailing 53-49, helping to turn the momentum in favor of New Castle.
Sarandrea doesn't allow his players to dunk.
"When they give us three points for a dunk, then we'll work on dunks," he said. "As long as it is only two points, they'd better lay it in."
DeMonaco went 8-for-10 at the foul line to help seal the issue.