Hoover Gibson's second-half effort led the 'Canes past Pine-Richland.
By ERIC POOLE
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- When New Castle took the court to start the second half of its WPIAL Section 3-AAAA game Friday against Pine-Richland, a familiar face was missing from the lineup -- starting center Hoover Gibson.
"I wasn't happy with his performance in the first half," said Red Hurricanes coach John Sarandrea. "I told Hoover that his effectiveness wasn't what we wanted."
Consider the message received.
Gibson, a 6-foot-4 senior, snared seven of his eight rebounds and scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half as New Castle overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to defeat Pine-Richland, 51-46.
For his part, Gibson was philosophical about being benched at the beginning of the second half.
"Starting is nothing. It's what you do in the game," Gibson said. "What I tried to do is get everyone hyped."
Team leader: Even more important than the second-half points Gibson scored was that he took on the role of team leader at both ends of the court.
"In the second half, he played the way we need him to play," said Sarandrea. "He rebounded, he crashed the offensive boards with a lot of heart.
"I'm proud of what he did in the second half."
The victory kept New Castle (18-0, 7-0) unbeaten, while the Rams fell to 4-13, 2-5 in section play. But Pine-Richland, which has found victories difficult to come by this season, came closer than any other team to giving the Red Hurricanes their first defeat.
With 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Pine Richland's Matt Senkoski hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 5-5 and trigger a 10-0 run. During the Rams' run, New Castle would go scoreless for five minutes.
"Pine-Richland wanted to win more than we did," said Sarandrea. "They played with more heart than we did and honestly, they deserved to win."
Reclaim lead: New Castle would not reclaim the lead until the 4:19 mark of the third quarter, when Mark DeMonaco, who scored 13 points to share game honors with Gibson and John Skender of Pine-Richland, scored on a hard drive to the hoop, got the foul and converted the three-point play to give New Castle a 31-29 lead.
That play took place in the middle of a five-minute 14-2 run by the Red Hurricanes, again exhibiting a streaky nature that has Sarandrea a little concerned.
"That's a terrible quality. It's like playing Russian roulette."
But, unlike a lot of teams the Red Hurricanes have faced this season, Pine-Richland absorbed the flurry of points, which pulled the New Castle crowd into the game, and hung around -- with some help from the officials.
With 5:20 left in the fourth quarter, New Castle's Joe Carter had a clean steal against Pine-Richland's Kyle Ovitz, who pulled Carter down to prevent a breakaway layup.
Carter, who had been knocked down earlier in the second half without a foul call, kicked at Ovitz. The officials, who apparently didn't see Carter get knocked down, called a flagrant foul against the retaliation.
Ovitz drained both of the foul shots for the technical and then scored on the subsequent possession to turn a five-point New Castle lead into a 39-38 score.