By TIM CLEVELAND
For the first quarter-plus Saturday night, Poland was hanging with New Castle, trailing only by two points. Things fell apart from there for the Bulldogs, as New Castle used a 10-0 run to blow open the game as the Hurricanes rolled to a 63-46 victory in the last of four games in the United Way Holiday Basketball Classic.
Neither team was at its best, as Poland committed 27 turnovers while New Castle had 18.
“They’re a good basketball team. What they try to do is get you to have to make plays,” Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. “They’re not going to let you slow yourself down and try to get the ball here, set a screen there. They were effective in getting us to throw the ball away a little bit. We didn’t make the greatest decisions all the time, but my kids competed.”
Grisdale added that despite the loss he feels the game was a learning experience for his team.
“To play a team like New Castle is only going to help us down the stretch because we’re not going to see a team like New Castle,” he said. “That was a great game for my kids to really find out a lot about how bad they want to be a great team.”
After Poland (3-1) scored to pull within 22-20 in the second quarter, the Hurricanes took control. After Jake McPhatter made a pair of free throws for New Castle, the Bulldogs were whistled for a seldom-called technical foul.
“I’ve been doing this a long time; I’ve never seen that before,” Grisdale said. “My kid picked up a foul and we were subbing for him and he just came and sat down (on the bench) before I had a sub up at the table. The rule is the kid cannot leave the floor until a player checks in for him.”
Anthony Richards made both free throws, and after Poland turned the ball over, Ohio State football recruit Malik Hooker made a basket and Drew Allen had two free throws for a 32-20 lead late in the first half.
Poland never got closer than six points the rest of the way.
“We made some free throws and Poland had an unfortunate technical foul; totally inadvertent by them,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “It worked in our favor and we were able to make a couple free throws and then score.”
Jake Wolfe did what he could to keep Poland close. He made a pair of baskets early in the third quarter to pull his team to within 34-28, but New Castle (4-0) pulled away as Richards made a 3-pointer for a 42-31 lead, then Hooker added another 3 at the buzzer to give the Hurricanes a 45-34 advantage after three quarters.
“Us as a team really played well,” Wolfe said. “New Castle’s a great team and we weren’t executing as well as we should but we gave a lot of effort tonight.”
Wolfe — who along with Kyle Dixon led Poland with 12 points — scored five in the fourth quarter, each time bringing the Bulldogs to within 10 points.
Wolfe broke his right thumb late in Poland’s football season. Grisdale said his senior is just now approaching 100 percent.
“He got his brace off on Dec. 2 and we opened (basketball season) on Dec. 3, so he’s just kind of rounding his body into shape,” Grisdale said. “He’s got to play like he did tonight and even better for us to get where we want to go.”