NEW CASTLE —
Malik Hooker, a 6-1 senior guard/forward and Ohio State University football recruit, propels New Castle’s attack with a county-best 22.8 points a game. He has 1,589 career markers as well.
“Malik is the best athlete in the WPIAL,” Lafko said. “He is playing very good basketball right now and he can hurt you in many ways.”
Hampton held Hooker to a season-low six points in the district championship game. Hooker has rebounded from that output with 49 points in the state playoffs.
Anthony Richards, a 5-8 senior guard, backs up Hooker’s effort at 12.8 markers a matchup. Richards, a West Virginia Wesleyan recruit, has 1,080 career points.
“Anthony is such a hard competitor,” Lafko said. “He’s tough to defend.”
Richards has 94 3-pointers on the season and 297 for his career. Both are school records.
Richards is just three 3-pointers shy of becoming just the fourth player in WPIAL history with at least 300 3-pointers. Highlands’ Micah Mason (2008-2012) leads the way with 346 and Chartiers Valley’s T.J. McConnell (2006-10) is second at 334. Mike Colbert, another Chartiers Valley (1994-98) product rounds out the group with 302.
McConnell is currently playing at Arizona for Blackhawk High graduate Sean Miller.
“It’s just repetition,” Blundo said of Richards’ perimeter success. “He takes thousands and thousands of shots every day on the shooting machine. Even when he misfires, he’s able to go on to the next play and put it behind him.”
New Castle’s Stew Allen, a 6-3 senior center and Duquesne football recruit, is next at 10.6 points a game. Stew’s twin brother Drew, a 6-0 senior guard, contributes 10.2 tallies a tilt. Stew is a Robert Morris University football recruit.
FINDING A WAY
Stew Allen delivered for the ’Canes in the championship game with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He added seven rebounds.
“Stew had a great championship game for them,” Lafko said. “He finished around the basket and gave them a lift.
“Drew Allen is tough on opponents, too. He makes plays out on the perimeter.”
The ’Canes are averaging 73.8 points a game, which is tops in Quad-A among WPIAL teams while allowing 49.8 markers.
Blundo knows his team must play its usual brand of basketball to advance to the state semifinals.
“We have to play really good defense. Good, tough, New Castle defense,” he said. “We need to generate some offense from our defense.
“We have to get easy buckets and contain Ryan Luther. Rebounding will be a key, too. We have to rebound really well. We’ve only been outrebounded two or three times this year, and that’s big considering our size.”
The winner advances to meet the survivor of the Abington-Martin Luther King matchup Tuesday at a time and site to be announced.