For one half Wednesday night, it appeared as if New Castle's dream season might come to an end as North Allegheny was making the ice-cold Red Hurricanes appear more like a mild wind.
But North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio figured his Tigers likely would see a different New Castle team in the second half.
"We knew they were going to come out with fire in their eyes," DeGregorio said.
DeGregorio was right.
New Castle began playing like New Castle.
After trailing at halftime for one of the few times this season, New Castle (28-0) turned up the heat offensively and defensively and used a dominant second half to defeat North Allegheny, 57-46, in a PIAA Class AAAA second-round game at Slippery Rock University.
In the quarterfinals Saturday, New Castle will face Erie Cathedral Prep (23-2), which edged Hampton, 58-50.
North Allegheny finished 22-5, and three of the losses came against New Castle.
It was a tale of two halves for New Castle. The Red Hurricanes looked a bit flustered offensively in the first half against an aggressive North Allegheny defense. New Castle shot just 26 percent (6 of 23) from the field and did not score in the final 4:13 of the half. North Allegheny led, 23-19, at halftime.
"You never want to go in halftime down on yourselves, no matter what's going on," New Castle senior Shawn Anderson said. "You want to keep a positive attitude. That's all we did. We just kept talking to each other and kept playing hard. We know if we play hard for 32 minutes, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win."
Over the next eight minutes, New Castle played like the team that stormed its way to a second consecutive WPIAL championship. New Castle exceeded its first-half point total by outscoring North Allegheny, 22-7, to take a 41-30 lead. The Red Hurricanes shot 73 percent (8 of 11) from the field and forced six turnovers. North Allegheny made just two field goals.
"That run wasn't just on offense," DeGregorio said. "That was a defensive run where they created a couple of turnovers and made some big threes."
New Castle made 10 3-pointers, and four came in the third quarter with Brandon Domenick and Anthony Richards making two apiece.
New Castle led by as many 17 points in the fourth quarter, and North Allegheny got no closer than 11.
Anderson was the ringleader of New Castle's second-half surge. New Castle's leading scorer, he had two points in the first half, but scored the final 15 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. He scored on several acrobatic shots and tallied New Castle's first nine points of the fourth quarter. Anderson also had 11 rebounds.
New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said that getting Anderson more involved was vital.
"At halftime, we talked about Shawn getting some interior touches," Blundo said. "He did and was really effective down there, and then we got some guys who got good looks on the perimeter.
Added Blundo: "For me, he's as good as it gets in Western Pennsylvania."
Domenick scored 14 points and Richards added 11, finishing with four and three 3-pointers, respectively. R.J. Colabrese led North Allegheny with 15 points. Luke Soyster came off to the bench to score 11 points, including three of North Allegheny's nine 3-pointers.
New Castle shot 47 percent (19 of 40) from the field in the game. North Allegheny shot 42 percent (16 of 38).
North Allegheny -- particularly in the first half -- looked nothing like the team that was blown out at home Jan. 11 by New Castle, 88-43. The Tigers came out extremely confident and showed it by forcing nine New Castle turnovers in the first 16 minutes.
"They gave so much effort," DeGregorio said. "It's been that way all season. We have great leadership and some great seniors. They played their butts off."