The Hurricanes improved to 20-5.
AMBRIDGE, Pa. -- Before Saturday's meeting with Albert Gallatin in the opening round of the WPIAL-AAAA playoffs, New Castle coach John Sarandrea had a hunch that his club might be in for a real battle.
"When I watched the film that Albert Gallatin provided for us, I knew we were going to be in for a war," he said. "One of the things when you watch film is you don't get a real true indication of size and size sometimes can be very deceiving.
"Then when you watch the game, you can really appreciate the wing span of some of their guys in that 1-3-1 zone. If you don't try to penetrate and get into the seam against us, you can be in a lot of trouble."
As it turned out, Sarandrea was right on target, as the Hurricanes held on down the stretch for a 51-50 victory over the Colonials (17-7). New Castle (20-5) will face second-seeded Upper St. Clair either Friday or Saturday at a time and place to be determined.
"I am really pleased with our guys and they way they hung in there," Sarandrea said. "They had a refuse-to-lose attitude today. There was a time during the game where both teams were answering with a punch, then a counter punch, punch, counter punch, and I didn't think it was going to come to an end. Thank goodness this is a game with a clock or they might still be out there hitting each other."
Although the Hurricanes led for much of the games, the score was tied all the way down the stretch, until Thomas Canal sank a free throw to make it 51-50. The issue wasn't decided until the Hurricane defense stepped up, forcing Gallatin into a tough shot and a turnover in the final 30 seconds.
"When we called a timeout, I reminded the guys that if we lose this one, they get a long rest," said Sarandrea. "I just told them to suck it up and go out there and battle and try to have the security to win and I think we did that, especially in the those last two defensive sets. We were able to cause turnovers in crucial points in the game and good defense will do that for you."
The Hurricanes threatened early to run away as they built a 21-9 lead in the first 10 minutes.
But the Colonials came back, outscoring the 'Canes 16-8 to cut the New Castle lead to 29-25 at halftime.
"I think two things happened during that stretch," said Sarandrea. "They got in foul trouble and when we were in the bonus, we missed seven free throws, including three front ends of 1-and-1s. That is a lot of points to give away. But then we got into foul trouble and had to have [Demetrius] Searcy and [Thomas] Canal on the bench for a longer period of time than I would have liked them to be there. When they are out of the game, we lose a lot of scoring and what happened then is that they made a run."
Leading by four at halftime, New Castle trailed by as many as six in the third period before battling back to get into position to win the game in the final minutes of the game.
Searcy led the Hurricanes with 15 points, while Anthony Harvey and David Richards each added 11. For Gallatin, T. J. Hall scored nine of his game-high 17 points in the third period to lead all scorers.