Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
PITTSBURGH — The New Castle High boys basketball team firmly etched its name into the record books Saturday night.
The Red Hurricane made history at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center in a 68-53 win over Hampton in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game. New Castle’s WPIAL championship, its ninth overall, marks the first time a program had won back-to-back WPIAL crowns in different classifications and the first time a school went through the WPIAL playoffs en route to the title with a perfect mark.
The ’Canes (26-0) own district titles in 1927, 1936, 1982, 1993 and a three-year run from 1997 through 1999, in addition to each of the last two seasons. The teams that won three consecutive titles seem to be celebrated the most, and for good reason.
New Castle was 86-8 overall in that stretch, falling in the state semifinals once and once in the state championship under John Sarandrea’s direction.
David Young headlined that group, scoring 1,958 of his 2,232 career points during that stretch. Young later earned an NCAA Division I scholarship and was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics.
The numbers put up by the current group aren’t too shabby, either. The ’Canes are 53-1 the last two years, bagging a pair of WPIAL championships — Class AAA last year and Class AAAA this year.
In fact, the groundwork for the back-to-back championships came in the 2010-2011 campaign, when the ’Canes reached the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals before losing to South Fayette, 56-42. New Castle finished 20-8 that year, but boasted sophomore starters Antonio Rudolph, Brandon Domenick and Shawn Anderson for that semifinal-round loss to the Lions. The trio are now seniors.
The ’Canes shared the Section 2-AAA championship in 2011 with Blackhawk, while winning it outright last year, and claiming the Section 3-AAAA all by themselves this season.
Last year, New Castle tied the single-season consecutive victories mark at 27 with the 2001-2002 squad before losing the 28th game to Montour in the state playoffs. The ’Canes have a shot at tying that mark again this year, if not breaking it.
Anderson has blossomed into a 1,000-point scorer (1,424 points currently) and will continue his career at Navy. Domenick set the school’s career mark for 3-pointers made, now with 196. And he will play collegiately at Gannon.
Malik Hooker, just a junior, has 882 career points and likely will reach the 1,000-point plateau early next season. Corey Eggleston, who graduated last year, reached that mark last year and finished with 1,409 career tallies.
“That was a very good team,” Rudolph said of the ’97 through ’99 teams. “We just want to be on that legacy up there with them.
“We’ve got back-to-back WPIAL championships, a three-peat in the section. Shawn went over 1,000 points. Brandon got the record for 3s. I feel that we’ve left a very good legacy behind us. We just want the younger guys behind us to keep picking it up and put New Castle on the map.”
Anderson scored a team-high 16 points Saturday for New Castle in the win over the Talbots. He bucketed a game-best 24 points last year in the championship victory over Hampton.
Anderson has played quite a role the last couple of years for this team and their success.
“That’s for you guys to decide,” Anderson said of the opinions of the media and fans for the possible legacy. “To me, that’s hearsay.
“You really can’t compare us. They had players like David Young and Justin Farris. It’s different decades and two different experiences, obviously. They were a great team. But you can’t compare us.”
Anderson knows his New Castle basketball history. And maybe he’s right, nobody can compare the legacies of the teams.
But one thing is for sure. The New Castle boys basketball teams of 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 will be talked about around these parts for many years to come. Stories will be passed down for generations and scrapbooks will be looked through with fond memories.
And maybe a state championship this year will make for an even stronger case in the discussion for the current group of players.
(Ron Poniewasz Jr., “The Doctor of Style,” is a sports writer at The News. To check out our photo galleries, video highlights and stories on The Bounce, CLICK HERE.)