Over the past two seasons, a span that has covered just fewer than 60 games, no team in the WPIAL has managed to beat the New Castle boys basketball team in the regular season.
A large reason for that is the man on the sideline directing the Red Hurricanes -- coach Ralph Blundo. For his team's success and his role in helping achieve that level of play, Blundo has been selected as the Post-Gazette's high school boys basketball coach of the year for the 2012-13 season.
Having just completed his third season as the New Castle coach, Blundo has a record of 76-10 -- a run that includes three section championships and two WPIAL titles (Class AAA in 2012 and Class AAAA this season). Over the past two seasons, the Red Hurricanes went 56-2, with this season perhaps their most impressive.
After making the move up to Class AAAA, Blundo and New Castle were anything but overwhelmed by the step up. In fact, they were dominant. Averaging a Class AAAA-best 77.8 points per game (second only to Vincentian in the WPIAL), the Red Hurricanes completed their second consecutive undefeated regular season, beating opponents by an average of 25.8 points per game. Until its 54-50 victory against Hampton Feb. 8 in the second-to-last game of the regular season, no team had gotten within single digits of New Castle.
By properly utilizing a roster with a slew of experienced players led by Shawn Anderson, Blundo helped lead the New Castle program to new heights. Even though the season ended with a disappointing loss in the PIAA semifinals to Philadelphia-area power Lower Merion, it is hard to diminish what Blundo and his players were able to accomplish for a program that went 31-37 in the three years before his arrival.
What has made your past two teams so special? "In order to do that, there have to be good players, and they are. The other thing is you have to have those special intangibles that many great teams have, and a togetherness and a belief in each other. Our guys were really good players who believed in each other, who were equally as tough as they were good, and had a tremendous chemistry."
Your team has followed up undefeated regular seasons with losses in the state playoffs each of the past two years. Can you put your finger on any reason why that's happened? "Lower Merion was a very good team. They beat Chester, who was ranked [nationally], and they were a tough matchup for us. They were equally athletic, but obviously much longer, which made it a difficult matchup for us, particularly at the guard positions. They have a kid going to Syracuse and a kid going to Temple or Villanova. We had a chance, but it just wasn't meant to be. That loss certainly doesn't define this group."
Is it going to be difficult for you to see this senior class go? "Absolutely. This senior group, they blazed the trail for all other guys coming after them. Shawn [Anderson], Brandon [Domenick], Jesse [Salzano] and Antonio [Rudolph] are special, special players and special young men. I think sports at all levels have realized that you win with good players and good people. If you don't have one or the other, you're not going to win."
What do you see as the future of this program? "A really high standard has been established, not in regard to winning, but in regard to how the sport, how the game, how the work is approached and how they represent themselves, the team and the community. These young men have set a standard that will not be compromised, all of which will be beneficial to the kids in our program long after they leave us."
Since it's March, who's your pick to win the NCAA tournament? "I'm picking Florida because of how well they guard defensively and the overall strength of their 'bigs.' If they shoot it well enough throughout the tournament, they'll have a chance. This is a good year to take a team like Florida because it doesn't appear as though one team is that much better than another. I've got them beating Arizona in the championship -- I'm a big Sean Miller fan, and he always has his teams ready for the tournament."mobilehome - hsbasketball
Craig Meyer: email@example.com First Published March 29, 2013 4:00 AM