Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
One turnover or ill-advised shot doesn’t define a possession.
One possession doesn’t determine a game.
And one loss doesn’t tarnish a season.
The New Castle High boys basketball team rolled up 29 straight victories. But the Red Hurricane came up just a little bit short in its quest to reach the PIAA Class AAAA championship game.
Only champions are remembered by most fans and media. Not the runner-up, or the third- or fourth-place team, for that matter.
That adage is out the window with this New Castle team, though.
The ’Canes put together quite a run this season. Securing the WPIAL championship for a second straight season. Establishing a pair of district firsts along the way — claiming the district crown in different classifications in consecutive years and going through the regular season and WPIAL playoffs unbeaten as well. Setting the program mark for consecutive single-season victories at 29.
Those items alone will keep the buzz around this New Castle team for a long time. Add on top of that, for 29 games, no one, NO ONE, from the western side of the state could stop them. OK, technically 27 games, since two others were against out-of-state competition in the KSA Classic in Orlando, Fla.
But you get the point, New Castle truly was the best of the west, in Pennsylvania.
Many fond memories were made along the way. Who could forget Brandon Domenick breaking the school’s all-time career 3-pointers made record — which probably will be broken in next year’s tipoff tournament by teammate Anthony Richards. Or Shawn Anderson surpassing the 1,000-point plateau.
There were thunderous, statement dunks by Malik Hooker and Antonio Rudolph. In fact, there even is one, by Hooker, that is being seen across the country. Perhaps you’ve seen it. A roaring one-handed dunk in the state semifinals against Lower Merion.
Oh, and if there’s a ball bouncing around aimlessly, you can bet there will be five ’Canes swarming to it, ready to dive for it to gain possession.
And there’s a three-year run that included an overall record of 76-10, two WPIAL championships, an appearance in the district semifinals and three trips to the state playoffs, all during coach Ralph Blundo’s three years at the helm. All are items to be extremely proud of.
It goes beyond the bright lights of game night, too. This team practiced like it played — hard and with passion from start to finish. That’s what winners do. That’s what champions do.
New Castle dominated the competition, winning 28 of its games by double figures. The ’Canes’ closest margin came at Hampton in a 54-50 decision Feb. 8.
New Castle may have been undersized in many of its games, especially three games against the Talbots, or the semifinal setback to Lower Merion. But what the ’Canes lacked in vertical stature, they made up for in heart.
The ’Canes never backed down from a challenge and they kept coming. They were down 11 points in the semifinals, three different times. But only a fool would start shoveling dirt on this team. They battled back against a much bigger team and tied the score.
Four seniors — Anderson, Domenick, Rudolph and Jesse Salzano — will depart with a pair of district gold medals. Sure, state gold eluded the program. But this team captured the hearts of fans all across the county and throughout western Pennsylvania. It’s something they might not fully realize for several years. But when they do, it will make a special season as this seem even more satisfying.
The 2012-2013 version of the ’Canes boys basketball team left plenty of memorable moments that won’t be soon forgotten. Their legacy will be something future New Castle teams will strive to equal. And surpassing it won’t be very easy. But you can bet that doing so will be the goal of every player, every team, to come.
(Ron Poniewasz Jr., better know as “The Doctor of Style,” covers New Castle High sports for The News.)