Michael Graham

New Castle's Michael Graham shoots a 3-pointer during a home game against Blackhawk.

The New Castle High boys basketball team put it all together in the fourth quarter Tuesday night.

The Red Hurricane trailed throughout the first three quarters before rallying for a 55-50 WPIAL Section 2-4A home win over Blackhawk at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.

The win earns New Castle (5-2 section, 10-5 overall) a split of the season series with the Cougars (6-2, 6-8). The ’Canes also have won five of their last six games.

“I think at this point, this is the biggest win of the year for us,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “If you have any thoughts of doing anything special in the section, you have to win your home games.”

There is a logjam at the top of the section standings. Ambridge (6-1, 10-3) is alone in first place and Blackhawk is in second place. Quaker Valley (5-2, 11-3) and the ’Canes are tied for third. The Quakers won the first meeting with New Castle.

The top four teams in the section including ties that can’t be broken advance to the WPIAL playoffs.

The Cougars built a 12-8 lead after the first quarter and 25-19 advantage at the break. Blackhawk was 6 of 7 from behind the arc in the opening half.

“They hurt us from the perimeter in the first half,” Blundo said. “We were less backside heavy in the first half. We were concerned both of their bigs would hurt us on the blocks.

“We were there for the closeouts but they made the shots. To their credit, that’s good basketball.”

Blackhawk carried a 44-39 lead going to the fourth quarter. But the Cougars’ hot hand from the perimeter turned ice cold in the final eight minutes. Blackhawk was 9 of 12 from 3-point range in the first three quarters, but 0 of 7 in the fourth quarter.

“We weren’t quite as backside heavy in the fourth quarter and their bigs did hurt us a bit,” Blundo said.

The ‘Canes opened the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run to take a 48-46 lead with 4:58 to go. It was their first lead since a 5-3 margin in the first quarter.

New Castle pushed the buffer to 51-46 with just over three minutes to go on a 3-pointer. Blackhawk drained a pair of freebies with 2:56 to go, cutting the deficit to 51-48.

The ‘Canes were clinging to a 53-50 advantage after the Cougars hit a pair of foul shots with 52.8 seconds left.

Sheldon Cox sank two foul shots with 21.9 seconds left to put New Castle up 55-50. Blackhawk came down and misfired on a shot. The ‘Canes got the rebound and dribbled out the clock.

“It was a great New Castle-Blackhawk atmosphere,” Blundo said. “Blackhawk played really well in the first half.

Michael Wells led three ‘Canes in double figures with 19 points and Cox was next with 17. Isaiah Boice notched 14. Wells added seven rebounds and three assists.

Cox contributed six caroms and Boice snared four boards, five assists and three steals.

“Wells did a nice job finishing,” Blundo said. “Boice made some big shots.

“Jonathon Anderson and Isaiah Carter gave us great minutes, too. It was a total team win and that was good to see. But, it’s one section win. We have to get ready for what is next.”

And up next is the first-place Bridgers on the road at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“They’re probably the biggest WPIAL basketball team I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” Blundo said. “They have two 6-8 guys; their overall size is impressive. That’s unique for the WPIAL.”


Sports Writer

Ron Poniewasz Jr. is a sports writer at the New Castle News. Email him at rponiewasz@ncnewsonline.com.

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