New Castle News

February 13, 2013

WPIAL Boys Playoffs: New Castle gets top seed in Class AAAA

Ron Poniewasz Jr.
New Castle News

GREEN TREE — The top seed was a mere formality for the New Castle High boys basketball team.

But the Red Hurricane still contributed some suspense to the rest of the WPIAL Class AAAA bracket last night.

New Castle (22-0) was awarded the No. 1 seed in quad-A. Fellow Section 3 rivals North Allegheny (19-3) and Hampton (18-4) earned the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively. Both teams are on the opposite side of the bracket from New Castle.

“I’m a little surprised with the way they did things,” ’Canes coach Ralph Blundo said. “They gave our section an awful lot of respect and we appreciate that.

“We’re happy with the No. 1 seed. Coming in here, you play that season to get the best seed that you possibly can and that’s what we got.”

New Castle, ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class AAAA by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and No. 5 in the state by the Patriot-News of Harrisburg, was one of four county boys teams represented at the Doubletree Hotel. Mohawk and Neshannock advanced in Class AA and Union moved on in Class A.


The ’Canes, who won the WPIAL Class AAA championship last year over Hampton before moving up in classification, open the playoffs Feb. 20 against Latrobe (12-10) at a time and site to be determined. The 16th-seeded Wildcats finished fourth in Section 1.

New Castle has won 46 straight games. All but one of those wins came by 10 points or more. The Talbots, coached by former Westminster College standout Joe Lafko, battled New Castle and eventually dropped a 54-50 decision in the section finale at Hampton.

“It just means this is the tournament we’re in,” Blundo said of the new classification. “It’s a 16-team, quad-A tournament.

“The 22 wins doesn’t mean a thing. It doesn’t get you anything more than the seed you got. Now you have to go play the game, one game at a time.”


Union (16-5), which tied for second in Section 1 with Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, earned the No. 4 seed in Class A and will play Quigley Catholic (11-11) at 8 p.m. Friday at Aliquippa.

“You have to play and you have to play someone. I’m fine with that draw,” Scotties coach Dave Smialowski said. “I don’t know too much about them yet. I do know they have a couple of scorers.”

Despite getting a good seed, Union got a bit of bad news with its seed. The Scotties are on the same side of the bracket as section foe Lincoln Park (17-5). The Section 1 champion Leopards are ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL in Class A by the Post-Gazette and No. 3 in the state.

“We wanted to be on the opposite end of Lincoln Park. We can see them in the semifinals,” Smialowski said. “If we win those two games, we’ll be ready for them.

“We thought we’d be seeded anywhere from three through six. It doesn’t surprise me.”

The Scotties started 13-2 and then split their next four games late in the season.

“I don’t think we peaked too early,” Smialowski said. “We ran into some good teams there.

“It’s a new season now. Let’s go out and compete. One loss and you’re done. We’ll be ready.”


Mohawk and Neshannock will compete in preliminary-round games in Class AA on Saturday.

The Lancers (17-5) will tangle with Apollo-Ridge at noon at Highlands. The Vikings (15-7) tied for third in Section 1.

Neshannock tied for second in Section 2 with Riverside. But the Panthers got a higher seed.

“There’s no surprise when you finish tied for second (in the section),” Lancers coach John Corey said. “You have to expect the unexpected.”

Neshannock has won six of its last eight games.

“I’m pretty happy with the two wins we got (last week),” Corey said. “Overall, the one thing that has impressed me the last couple of weeks, is Ernie (Burkes) has played really well; not just scoring but assists and rebounds. That’s a good sign.”

The Neshannock-Apollo-Ridge winner earns the No. 12 seed and advances to meet fifth-seeded Sto-Rox (14-8), the Section 6 champ. Riverside will meet West Shamokin, with the survivor claiming the No. 11 seed.

Mohawk (9-13) will meet Serra Catholic (13-8) at 3 p.m. at Chartiers Valley. The winner moves on and secures the No. 14 seed and will face third-seeded Seton-La Salle.

“We knew coming in we’d be happy regardless of what seed we got,” Warriors coach Rob Fadden said. “When you’re 9-13, you can’t really complain about anything.”

Mohawk just missed out on a postseason berth last year. The Warriors made sure that didn’t happen this season, knocking off Shenango in the section finale to reach the postseason with a fourth-place tie with Aliquippa. A four-game losing streak in the middle of the season, three coming in league play, made things interesting for Mohawk.

“That was our goal, making the playoffs,” Fadden said. “Last year, we set a goal to improve on our record. This year, it was to get into the postseason. It didn’t happen the way we wanted it to, though.

“We struggled in the win-loss category. There were some games in that stretch where we played good basketball, we just didn’t put together four good offensive quarters.”

Mohawk will be without senior forward Saivon Watt for the rest of the playoffs. Watt, who averages six points a game, has a broken wrist.






Upper St. Clair vs. Norwin, 1:30 p.m. at Gateway

Central Catholic vs. Seneca Valley, 3 p.m. at North Hills

Hampton vs. Mount Lebanon, 3 p.m. at North Allegheny

Bethel Park vs. McKeesport, 3 p.m. at Baldwin




NEW CASTLE vs. Latrobe

Kiski vs. Gateway

North Allegheny vs. Canon-McMillan

Hempfield vs. Fox Chapel



Upper St. Clair vs. Norwin, 1:30 p.m. at Gateway



Mount Pleasant vs. Knoch, 8 p.m. at Highlands

Indiana vs. Elizabeth Forward, 8 p.m. at Yough

Kittanning vs. Yough, 8 p.m. at Gateway

South Park vs. Steel Valley, 8 p.m. at Peters Township

Ambridge vs. East Allegheny, 8 p.m. at North Hills




West Mifflin vs. South Fayette

Uniontown vs. Blackhawk

Thomas Jefferson vs. Laurel Highlands

Chartiers Valley, Beaver, Central Valley, Mars and Montour have a bye.



Charleroi vs. Bishop Canevin, noon at Peters Township

Deer Lakes vs. Shady Side Academy, noon at North Hills

Avonworth vs. Aliquippa, noon at North Allegheny

NESHANNOCK vs. Apollo-Ridge, noon at Highlands

Northgate vs. Brownsville, noon at Baldwin

Burrell vs. Beth-Center, 1:30 p.m. at West Allegheny

Washington vs. Jefferson-Morgan, 1:30 p.m. at Chartiers Valley

Serra Catholic vs. MOHAWK, 3 p.m. at Chartiers Valley

Riverside vs. West Shamokin, 3 p.m. at Highlands

California vs. Brentwood, 3 p.m. at Peters Township

Beaver Falls, Jeannette, Sto-Rox, Greensburg Central Catholic, Seton-La Salle and Quaker Valley have a bye.



Leechburg vs. Mapletown, 5 p.m. at Chartiers Valley

UNION vs. Quigley Catholic, 8 p.m. at Aliquippa

Clairton vs. St. Joseph, 8 p.m. at Chartiers Valley

Vincentian Academy vs. Western Beaver, 8 p.m. at West Allegheny

Monessen vs. Sewickley Academy, 8 p.m. at Keystone Oaks

North Catholic vs. Rochester, 8 p.m. at North Allegheny

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart vs. Trinity Christian, 8 p.m. at Cornell




Carmichaels vs. Wilkinsburg

Lincoln Park has a bye.

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