NEW CASTLE —
This one is for all the marbles.
New Castle High. La Salle College.
The winner gets gold medals and a sparking trophy. The loser gets silver medals and a runner-up status.
The PIAA Class AAAA boys basketball championship is on the line. The Red Hurricane is hungry to strike gold for the first time.
New Castle will get that shot at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Hershey’s GIANT Center against the Explorers. Six ’Canes seniors will take the court looking to close out their career in style.
“Being one of the last two teams playing, and playing for a state title in Hershey, it’s a goal of all young people and all athletes,” said fourth-year ’Canes coach Ralph Blundo. “Anyone that’s ever played at New Castle has had dreams like that.
“We have that opportunity now. We’re proud to represent the WPIAL and our community.”
New Castle (30-0) will play in the championship game for the fourth time in program history — 1936, 1982 and 1998. The Explorers (23-6) are only in their sixth season of competing in the PIAA.
The Philadelphia Catholic League joined the PIAA in the 2008-09 school year in District XII. This is the third trip to the state playoffs for La Salle College since being eligible for the PIAA playoffs.
La Salle College is located one-tenth of a mile from the city of Philadelphia in Montgomery County.
Though the Explorers have never competed for a state title, they do own one Catholic League crown — 1981.
“We’re thrilled to be in the championship game,” said La Salle College coach Joe Dempsey, who is in his 10th season at the helm. “It’s such an honor, especially in basketball.
“La Salle has won a handful of state championships. Swimming just won its third in a row. Hockey is in the state championship, but it’s not in the PIAA. Lacrosse won one last year, football has a state crown and baseball won one in 2012, I think it was.”
Dempsey continued, “I work at a very successful school and sports community. I’m thrilled to hold up the basketball end. We still have one more to play. We’re certainly not taking New Castle lightly. They’re a tremendous team and program.”
New Castle is looking to become the first team from the west to win a state crown since the 2006-07 season. Schenley, out of the City League, knocked off Chester that season for the title, 78-71.
The ’Canes can put an end to that streak, but Blundo knows there’s work to be done.
“They’re an excellent basketball team,” he said of La Salle College. “They defend really well and they play well together.
“They’re a smart basketball team and they do things fundamentally right. They play hard and they are versatile. To me, it’s no surprise that they’re in the state final.”