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March 20, 2013

Video, Story: ’Canes fans flock to Williamsport by the busload

NEW CASTLE — No matter the drive, Red Hurricane fans showed their pride.

Thousands of New Castle High basketball fans made the 200-mile journey to Williamsport to see their ’Canes attempt to make it to their first state championship game since 1998.  

As the crowd filed in, it was clear that the stands would bleed red and black.

With the exception of a small contingent of Lower Merion fans, the house was full of New Castle faithful who gave their best efforts to cheer the team on.

Laura Matarazzo, 47, was one of many to board the plethora of charter buses that lined areas of New Castle to escort fans to the game.

“I know for sure there were at least five or six charter buses that I saw,” Matarazzo said. “We brought a lot of fans.”

Matarazzo’s son, Johnny, was a member of the team two seasons ago and her daughter, Gabby, is a senior this year.  

“I was a basketball fan in the fact that my son played his junior year. So, we’ve always followed the team. I’m a big Ralph Blundo fan. I think he’s a great coach and he’s done some great things for the community.”

Those riding the buses enjoyed watching movies, talking with friends and enjoying the bounty of available food — anything to make the 3 1/2-hour drive pass.

“Actually, it was kind of quiet. I think a lot of people were just getting ready for the game,” Matarazzo said. “But it was fun. There was a lot of food. You know New Castle, we’re famous for food. There was a lot of food being passed around. It was nice.”

Anna Pascarella, 49, also boarded one of the buses that left from New Castle for Williamsport around 1 p.m.

“We left about 1:20 p.m. from the old Giant Eagle on the east side. Our bus was full. I think the last count I heard was probably 10 (buses) with the student buses as well. That doesn’t include the team bus.”

A 1982 New Castle graduate, Pascarella was taking in the championship run of the 1981-82 team from a student’s perspective. Years later, she’s grown to appreciate the team in a different way.

“I’m looking at it now from a more mature individual,” she said. “I’m taking a lot more in right now and I think I have a better appreciation for the players, the coaches and the time that goes into it.

 “As a youngster, you just don’t think about those things. You just want to go to the game and start cheering and hooting and hollering on the bus, and you do those kind of things. Both are good, it’s just a different perspective.”

Heather Cuscino, 40, boarded the same bus as Pascarella and couldn’t wait for the contest to start.

“I’ve always been a fan of basketball and the team. It’s a very great experience and it’s very humbling,” the 1990 New Castle said.  “I’ve been to every playoff game since the WPIAL started and all the home games throughout the season.”

Another member of the bus brigade, Daresse Henderson, 23, was a 2007 graduate of the school who played for the team. He believed New Castle’s unity this season was its strongest asset.

“I just like that they play together. Blundo, he makes them play with a lot of heart and he’s a good leader for the kids. He teaches them how to be men before basketball players,” he said. “I like the way Malik (Hooker) plays, I like the way Shawn Anderson plays. Each player does their part. There are no egos or anything like that.”

The impact the team has had on the New Castle community was something that impressed Henderson most.

“It’s kind of a big thing. It’s good to see the community support the kids and travel far, far away and show them a lot of support. They’re definitely doing something legendary.”

Other fans decided against riding the bus. Marcee Richardson was one of them. No, she wasn’t worried about feeling crowded or the discomforts that go with riding a bus — she was worried about losing her seat at the game.

“I wanted my seat down front, in the middle, so I can do what I do,” she said. “I came straight here because I didn’t know what the line was going to be like.”

Richardson, another 1982 graduate of the school, is a diehard fan. Not only does she attend every football and basketball game, she makes sure she gets plenty of tickets so her family and friends can go.

“The ticket manager told me I buy more tickets than anybody in New Castle,” she said. “I probably bought 45-50 for this game. Everybody calls me and texts me that they need tickets.”

Most people wouldn’t arrive 2 1/2 hours before a game starts when they have a ticket. Richardson’s pride in her team was reason enough for her.  

“They deserve it.”

 

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