The senior transfer helped the Red Hurricanes upend Butler.
By ERIC POOLE
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Playing against Butler, the school he transferred from last year, for the first time was strange for New Castle guard Dante Spino, but not as strange as it might have been.
"It was different, because I was playing against a couple of my best friends," said the senior, who scored 15 points to share game honors with one of those "best friends," David Salsovic.
One thing did remain constant -- New Castle's (17-0, 6-0) winning streak, which stands at 17 games after the Red Hurricanes' 72-47 Section 4-AAAA victory over Butler (4-9, 2-3).
Spino, who graded his performance as "decent," said he approached the game against his former team as if it were any other contest.
"I wasn't really that nervous. I thought I would be."
Dom Joseph (14 points) and Joe Carter (11) also scored in double figures for the Red Hurricanes. Butler's leading scorers, in addition to Salsovic, were Tyrell Sales, with 14 points, and Tim Madigan, with 10.
No big deal: For his part, Golden Tornado coach Gene Rodgers also ignored the Spino factor in the run-up to Friday's game.
"We don't miss him. We like the guys who want to stay in Butler."
Spino wasn't the only one feeling a little strange during the game. New Castle found itself in an unfamiliar position -- trailing the Golden Tornado -- for most of the first half.
After Leon Ward, the third guard in New Castle's three-guard attack, scored twice to open the game, Butler went on a 7-0 run, fueled by Madigan, who scored five of his seven points in the first period.
New Castle tied the score at 9 with 1 minute, 24 seconds remaining after a tip-in by Hoover Gibson, who scored nine points, but Salsovic hit a 3-pointer, Butler's only trey of the night, to give the Golden Tornado a 12-9 lead.
"At that point, it was evident that Butler was playing with more intensity and they wanted to win the game more than we did," said New Castle coach John Sarandrea.
With 2:46 remaining in the first half, New Castle took off on a 13-0 spurt to take control of the contest.
The Red Hurricanes went through two first-half scoring droughts of almost 4 minutes each but made up for it with the two runs.
Needs to stop: New Castle's streaky nature, which also manifested itself in a section victory Tuesday over North Allegheny, is a matter of concern for Sarandrea.
"I realized we played only 19 minutes of 32 minutes," he said. "That was good enough to beat North Allegheny.
"Is it good enough to beat Uniontown [the top-ranked team in WPIAL Class AAAA]? I don't think so."
In the second half, New Castle took advantage of its deeper bench -- the Red Hurricanes used nine players, while Butler played only seven -- to seal its 17th win of the season.
While the winning streak continues, the strangeness may not be over for Spino. He, and the Red Hurricanes, will travel to Butler on Feb. 8 in the season finale.
Spino expects a less friendly reception than the one he got last night in New Castle.
"I'd imagine it'll be a totally different atmosphere because there'll be a lot more of their fans."