N. Castle advances to WPIAL semifinal

The Red Hurricanes defeated Shaler 72-55.
PITTSBURGH -- Sometimes you play your best and lose, while at other times, you don't play up to par, but still find a way to win.
In Saturday's matchup with Shaler, the New Castle High girls basketball team found itself in the second category, overcoming a lot of obstacles to defeat the Titans 72-55 in a WPIAL quarterfinal playoff game.
The Red Hurricanes will play Upper St. Clair Wednesday at a time and site to be announced in the semifinals. USC defeated Pine-Richland, 58-55.
Two areas that gave New Castle a lot of unusual problems were shooting free throws (11-of-25, including 4-of-13 in the first half) and turnovers (15).
"When the game was over and I walked into the locker room, the first thing I told them was the way they shot foul shots, it was amazing that you were even close," New Castle coach Luann Grybowski said. "Down the stretch we just can't allow that to happen."
Shaler's only lead was 2-1 slightly more than a minute into the first period before New Castle pulled away to lead 19-11 after one period and 37-13 at halftime.
Sams in charge
Leading the Red Hurricanes (25-1) was Jaleesa Sams, who finished with 31 points and 11 boards.
"We played that team twice before and it is hard to beat a team the third time," Sams said. "We don't usually shoot [free throws] that [poorly], but today, we shot really bad."
One thing New Castle did well was shoot 3s, making nine. Shelby Rodgers and Kara Joseph, who hit three apiece at crucial times, each finished with 13 points, while Ryenn Micaletti scored 11.
"I was looking for open shots, and if I wasn't open, I looked to get the ball inside to somebody who was open," Joseph said. "Our job is to get the ball to the open man, but today, I had some open looks and was able to make them.
"One thing is sure, we are going to work on foul shots these next two practices and get ready to go on Wednesday," Joseph said.
Bench help
With some of the starters struggling throughout the game, Grybowski was quick to praise the jobs done by Rodgers and Tasia Wise off the bench.
"[Rodgers] gave us an outstanding game," Grybowski said. "Tasia Wise didn't score, but she went in and played pretty good defense as well and did a good job off the boards and that is what you need."
The teams weren't strangers, having played twice during the regular season. New Castle defeated the Titans (16-9) by scores of 64-57 and 59-44.
"Because we know each other so well, we knew they were going to throw some different things at us," Grybowski said. "They spread the floor and ran a more wide open offense, which was a smart move on their part, and we gave them a little bit of a zone look in the second half.
"When we focus, we are hard to beat, but when we get a little bit lackadaisical like we were at the beginning of the third quarter, we put ourselves in a situation where we have to step it up again."
Shaler's Melissa McQuaide led all scorers with 23 points and Jackie Sauer finished with 12, eight of which came in the second half.

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