Game turns on late run, ending WPIAL champions’ magical ride
March 11, 2015 12:00 AM
New Castle's Marquel Hooker, left, and his brother Marcus celebrate after defeating Indiana Tuesday night at North Allegheny.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It was like the calm before the storm. For three quarters, New Castle didn’t shoot well, couldn’t force many turnovers and fell behind by seven points.
Then the third-quarter buzzer sounded. It was more like the warning siren.
The Red Hurricanes hit in the fourth quarter.
New Castle had one of its trademark runs in the fourth quarter and swept away Indiana, 50-43, Tuesday night in a PIAA Class AAA second-round game before a loud capacity crowd at North Allegheny. The win moves New Castle (22-5) into a quarterfinal for the third year in a row.
“It turned just like that,” said New Castle coach Ralph Blundo. “Our guys are the type of kids that when it gets going our way, we can make it hard on you. There’s another level that kids play at when the momentum is on their side.”
Indiana (25-3) had opened up a 35-28 lead with 39 seconds left in the third quarter and led, 35-30, heading into the final quarter. New Castle shot 26 percent (12 of 46) in the first three quarters, including 12 percent (2 of 17) from 3-point range.
Then Marquel Hooker hit a 3 to start the final quarter. His younger brother, Marcus, sank one. Then Marquel hit another. That was followed by a layup off a steal and another layup off a backdoor set. Then another 3-pointer by Geno Stone and all of a sudden New Castle had a 46-37 lead with 3:39 left. Indiana’s dream season, which included its first WPIAL title, was finished in a matter of five whirlwind minutes.
Marcus Hooker, a freshman, led New Castle with 16 points and Marquel, a junior, added 12. Guard Blake Shields led Indiana with 19.
“We knew one of those runs would come,” Marquel Hooker said. “We just had to keep our composure, keep playing, keep grinding and show who we really are.”
New Castle shot 50 percent (8 of 16) in the final quarter and made 4 of 6 3-pointers.
“You hate to simplify the game, but the ball finally went in,” Blundo said. “I thought we guarded well the whole game, but didn’t shoot well.”
The other key was New Castle’s trapping defenses, forcing 12 Indiana turnovers in the second half. Indiana scored with 7:03 left to take a 37-33 lead.
On their next five possessions, the Indians had a missed 3-pointer and four turnovers. Indiana didn’t score again until 21 seconds were left in the game.
New Castle also kept getting offensive rebounds in the final quarter. On one possession, New Castle got three offensive rebounds. Three times, they got offensive rebounds off missed shots. For the game, New Castle had 14 offensive rebounds to six for Indiana.
“We played some great teams this year and some quick teams. But this [New Castle] team had a combination that even Beaver Falls didn’t have, and that was quick feet along with quick hands,” said Indiana coach Greg Lezanic, whose team beat Beaver Falls in the WPIAL title game. “You hate to see this end, but everything is not about this loss. It’s about what we accomplished this year.”
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.
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