For the first 11 minutes, Gateway was sprinting stride for stride with New Castle.
But New Castle is the Usain Bolt of WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball. It's nearly impossible to play an entire game at New Castle's pace, and Gateway couldn't do it, either.
New Castle went on one of its patented runs in the final six minutes of the first half, and Gateway ended up in the rear-view mirror in a WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal Saturday at Ambridge. Gateway's tongues were hanging after New Castle sprinted past the Gators, 87-55.
The win put undefeated New Castle (24-0) in the semifinals Wednesday, and the Red Hurricanes are one of four Section 3 teams in the semifinals.
New Castle also ended Gateway's three-year run of appearances in the WPIAL title game.
The Gators (16-6) won the title the past two years, and Gateway coach Mitch Adams sounded like a man who is pretty sure of which team will win the championship this year.
"Somebody can beat New Castle, but New Castle is going to have to have a bad shooting night, their bus will have to break down and all of their players will have to get strep throat," Adams said.
The 87 points wasn't all that unusual for New Castle. The Red Hurricanes average 80 a game. They shot 53 percent, had 11 3-pointers in 28 attempts and forced a number of turnovers with their full-court pressure defense and quick hands.
The game was close through the first quarter and part of the second. Gateway (16-6) was beating New Castle's press at times and also getting inside for some easy baskets.
Gateway trailed by only 27-26 with 5:40 to go in the half. But from there, New Castle went on an 18-5 run over a 41/2-minute stretch to grab a 45-31 advantage.
New Castle made four 3-pointers during that stretch, and most of the run came with standout senior guard-forward Shawn Anderson on the bench with three fouls.
"Make no mistake, Gateway is a talented basketball team," said New Castle coach Ralph Blundo. "But I didn't know if they could keep it up.
"We just thought over the course of time, attrition would set in and the pace of the game would be to our favor."
Adams said, "They hadn't faced anyone like us, but [point guard] D.J. Boyce got two fouls, and I had to take him out. Then it goes from a six-point game to a 14-point game. D.J. is my rock."
Gateway scored the first basket of the third quarter before New Castle went on an 18-2 run.
Four New Castle players finished in double figures. Anderson led with 26 points (9 of 12 from the field) and seven rebounds. Junior guard-forward Malik Hooker had 14 points and nine rebounds. Senior Brandon Domenick and junior Anthony Richards, a pair of 5-foot-9 guards, both had four 3-pointers and 12 points.
"What makes us tough to guard is you have to guard everybody on our team," Blundo said. "That's not always the case in high school basketball."