It was no surprise that New Castle beat North Allegheny Friday night. How the Red Hurricane did it was stunning.
In what was expected to be a tight game between the top two teams in Class AAAA turned into a blowout with No. 1 New Castle rolling to an 88-43 win at No. 2 North Allegheny.
"I don't know if we could have played any better than that," New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said.
Blundo might have been right.
His team showed very few flaws in a game that saw a "running clock" go into effect midway through the fourth quarter. Both teams entered the game undefeated, but only New Castle had the look of a team that went through the first month of the season without a loss.
New Castle was dominant in every way, shooting 54 percent from the field and forcing 26 turnovers, many of which led to easy baskets.
Shawn Anderson, a senior guard who committed to the Naval Academy in November, helped keep his team's perfect season afloat with a game-high 23 points.
"We played awesome," said Anderson. "It was one of those nights where we were clicking on all cylinders."
New Castle (12-0), which took the leap to Class AAAA this season after winning the WPIAL Class AAA championship, continued to assert itself as the "team to beat" on its new turf while taking sole possession of first place in Section 3.
The Red Hurricane improved to 6-0 in the section by going on the road and soundly defeating a North Allegheny team that had beaten then-No. 2 Hampton three nights earlier. North Allegheny (11-1) dropped to 5-1 in section play.
It was the 39th double-digit win in a row for New Castle. The only loss in that span was to Montour in second round of the PIAA playoffs last year. The Red Hurricane have won each game this season by at least 16 points while averaging 82.
New Castle made 12 3-pointers, including four by Anthony Richards, who finished with 14 points. Richards also had five steals. Drew Allen came off the bench and made three 3s and finished with 12 points. Brandon Domenick added 10 points.
North Allegheny had relied on making a hefty amount of 3-pointers in keeping its perfect record alive, but the inability to do so Friday played a significant role in the Tigers' demise. After making 13 3-pointers in the win against Hampton, North Allegheny made just 5 on 19 against an aggressive New Castle defense that swarmed the Tigers with their full-court press and half-court aggressiveness. The Tigers shot 36 percent from the field.
"We couldn't get any rhythm offensively," said North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio. "We never looked comfortable on offense the entire game."
Adam Haus was the only North Allegheny player to reach double figures. He scored 13 points.
New Castle set the tone early with its relentless defense and hot shooting. After North Allegheny grabbed a 4-2 lead, New Castle stormed the Tigers with a 26-4 run to end the first quarter. The Red Hurricane forced nine turnovers in the opening quarter. Before the game was three minutes old, every New Castle starter had scored.
It was more of the same in the second quarter.
North Allegheny's Sean Hennigan and Haus hit consecutive 3-pointers to cut the Tigers' deficit to 35-18, but New Castle punched back with a 10-0 run to take a 27-point lead, its biggest of the half.
North Allegheny committed 14 turnovers in the first half and made just 2 of 9 3-pointers. New Castle shot 60 percent from the field and made seven 3-pointers.
New Castle went on a 12-2 run to start the second half to take a 62-26 advantage.
Anderson was excellent again in the third quarter, scoring nine points.
The Red Hurricane took a 46-point lead in the final minute of the game before North Allegheny made a free throw in the closing seconds to close out the scoring.
Said DeGregorio: "There's nothing more you can do than give New Castle credit. They played a great game."
First Published January 12, 2013 5:00 AM