The New Castle High boys basketball team closed section play strong Saturday night.
The Red Hurricane topped Ambridge, 60-50, in a WPIAL Section 2-4A matchup at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House. The win locks up sole possession of third place in the section.
New Castle closed league play at 8-4. The Bridgers shared fourth place with Central Valley, both at 7-5 in league play. But Ambridge qualifies for the WPIAL playoffs and the Warriors will stay home by virtue of a season sweep of Central Valley.
The ‘Canes raced out to a 20-11 lead after the first quarter and settled for a 34-28 lead at the break.
“I saw some things in the two days at practice that I liked,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said. “It really excited me that they know what Red Hurricane basketball is all about.
“I thought we would play well against them and we did. We shot it well and got a nice lead. But to Ambridge’s credit, they responded and we expected that.”
The Bridgers closed to within 40-36 going to the fourth quarter.
“The matchup is very contrasting against them,” Blundo said. ‘We’re very guard oriented and they are enormous. We have to offset their size with pressure.”
Michael Wells led four ‘Canes players in double figures with 18 points. Isaiah Boice was next with 14 and Sheldon Cox contributed 12. Michael Graham chipped in with 10.
Isaiah Thomas tallied 18 markers for Ambridge.
Blundo noted the magnitude of Saturday’s game.
“I thought it was a must-win game,” Blundo said. “We had lost two really tough games against Quaker Valley and Central Valley.
“If we would have pulled them out, we would have been section champions. But we didn’t. We needed this game (against Ambridge) for a lot of reasons. Most of it was our personal team reasons, to build momentum, get things going in the right direction. We have enough talent.”
WPIAL playoff pairings will be announced Tuesday in Green Tree.
Sunday night, the ‘Canes claimed a 73-65 win over Lincoln Park in the Bash with the Bronx, which was held on the Leopards’ home floor.
New Castle made 14 3-pointers in the win. Cox and Boice made four each, while Wells and Donny Cade tossed in three apiece.
Cade helped the ‘Canes pull away for the win in the fourth quarter. New Castle outscored Lincoln Park in the final frame, 28-22. Cade went on a personal 11-0 run, making three 3s and a field goal.
“We played a heck of a basketball team,” Blundo said of Lincoln Park. “I thought our guys expected to win. We played well and shot it well.
“Cade had a tough bucket in the post on his 11-0 run. It was probably the turning point in the game. We made a bunch of shots in the fourth quarter.”
Cox poured in a game-high 26 points for the ‘Canes (14-7 overall) and Wells was next with 16. Boice scored 12 markers and Cade cashed in 11. Cox also was 8 for 8 at the foul line.
“That’s two games in a row that Boice really came out shooting it great,” Blundo said. “He really helped get us going.
“Sheldon was really good at the free-throw line. And our point-guard play by Michael Graham and Jonathon Anderson was really good.”
New Castle closes out the regular season at 7:30 p.m. Monday when it hosts District 10 member Sharpsville.
Wilmington 68, Jamestown 56
The Greyhounds rallied for a District 10, nonregion home win over the Muskies.
Wilmington (9-12) trailed 19-14 after one quarter before forging a 35-34 halftime advantage. The Greyhounds pushed the buffer to 54-49 going to the fourth quarter.
“We’re trying to tinker with some things on the offensive end,” Wilmington coach Mike Jeckavitch said. “We’re trying to push the pace a bit and get more shots off.
“It was nice to see multiple guys get in the scoring column. We turned them over 25 times. Hopefully we can continue to find ways to put the ball in the hoop.”
Shane Cox netted a team-best 21 points for Wilmington and Caelan Bender was next with 14. Junior McConahy added 11 markers.
Cox collected seven rebounds, while Bender added seven boards and seven assists. Austin Lisowski posted four steals and four assists to go with his four tallies
Darian Keyser cashed in 21 points to lead Jamestown (8-13).