New Castle News

Sports

March 2, 2013

WPIAL Basketball Final: New Castle-Hampton ready for Round 3

NEW CASTLE — Gold is on the line.

History is at stake.

And two familiar foes are ready to do battle to settle it all in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game.

The New Castle and Hampton high boys basketball teams will meet at 9 p.m. today in the title tilt at Duquesne University’s A.J. Palumbo Center.

The top-seeded Red Hurricane (25-0) can win its second consecutive WPIAL championship and become the first program in district history, regardless of classification, to claim consecutive crowns in different classifications. It would mark New Castle’s ninth WPIAL basketball championship.

The ’Canes topped the Talbots in last year’s Class AAA title game, 57-44.

“That’s obviously something that would come with it,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said of the attempt at making history. “For us, we just want to win this game.”

New Castle is 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.

Another historical first would occur if New Castle upends Hampton because no team ever has won a WPIAL title with an unbeaten record two seasons in a row. The WPIAL crowned its first district champion 104 years ago and there have been 252 winners in four different classes since the first titleist.

The third-seeded Talbots (21-4) stand in New Castle’s way. The teams are Section 3 rivals and the ’Canes won both regular season meetings, 75-54 at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House and 54-50 on Hampton’s floor. In fact, the four-point margin was New Castle’s closest regular-season verdict the last two seasons. The ’Canes led the first meeting by just two points after three quarters before pulling away.

“I spoke to my team about that accomplishment today and just how great of an accomplishment it is,” said Talbots coach Joe Lafko, who is in his 17th season at the helm, of returning to the district championship game. “It’s great to play for a Quad-A championship.

“Going to the finals in back-to-back years is a challenging feat. I’m very proud of my guys. We’re taking a workmanlike attitude to this game.”

The Talbots have played in five WPIAL championship games since 2006 and their fourth in the last five seasons. They won the crown in 2009.

“We’re very proud of our tradition,” Lafko said. “Having a chance to reach the (WPIAL) finals is a goal of any western Pennsylvania team. To have the opportunity to play for the championship is always a goal of ours.”

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