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New Castle boys drop home game to North Allegheny

Jan. 27—The New Castle High boys basketball team tried to mount a late comeback against North Allegheny but couldn't get the job done on Friday.

The Red Hurricane turned a 19-point deficit into a five-point deficit in the fourth, but North Allegheny responded to pull away with a 71-63 WPIAL Section 1-6A victory at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.

"It's a section win on the road. From a win-loss standpoint, it's important," North Allegheny coach Dave DeGregorio said. "To win at New Castle is just important."

Said New Castle coach Ralph Blundo of the fifth consecutive section loss, "I told (the team) that obviously we're not happy about this. But, like anything in life, as you go through life, you're going to have disappointment. We've got to wake up tomorrow and go back to work. That's all we can do. There's no time to dwell on this. We have to get ready for Butler. That's our reality right now and that's what we'll do."

The Tigers (4-2 section, 6-12 overall) jumped out to a seven-point lead thanks to Joseph Marquis. Marquis posted 16 points for North Allegheny.

"He's a shooter," DeGregorio said of Marquis. "He's a shooter, he stepped up, he got some opportunities and knocked them down. He knocked a huge one down in the fourth quarter when we were on our heels. It was huge because they had us on our heels in the fourth quarter."

It was a physical task for New Castle to go on the defensive with North Allegheny's size advantage.

"I just didn't feel like we guarded in the first half," Blundo said. "We gave up a 3 at the end of the first, we gave up a 3 right just before halftime. I thought there were a couple of closeouts where we didn't get out on guys. I thought there were times that guys got by us and got all the way to the rim.

"It's unfortunate and it's really not acceptable either. We'll keep working and get better at it."

New Castle (1-5, 12-6) entered the second quarter trailing the Tigers by five. With 4:17 remaining in the second, New Castle's Ralphie Blundo sank a 3-pointer to give his team a brief one-point lead before North Allegheny responded by posting seven unanswered points.

"I think that they played well tonight. I really do," Blundo said of the Tigers. "They made open shots; they made us pay when we made mistakes defensively.

"You have to give a lot of credit to them. I feel like this is probably the best they've played all year and I credit them for that. It was a big game and they needed it. They came into our gym on Friday night and beat us."

Ralphie Blundo posted a game-high 25 points, while teammate Damian Harrison chipped in 21 of his own.

The Tigers entered halftime with a nine-point advantage over the 'Canes.

Blundo said his team really needed the halftime break.

"We had a really tough week. A majority of our starters were hit with the flu this week," Blundo said. "It was a difficult week. Halftime was really about energy and making some adjustments as coaches, but giving them a chance to sit and get ready for the second half.

"I do think in light of how difficult this week was in terms of preparation with guys sick all week and trying to gut it out the best they could, I was proud of them that they came out and competed tonight even though I wish we would've played better."

The first three minutes of the second half went in favor of North Allegheny. The Tigers posted nine unanswered points in the third quarter.

"I thought we guarded really well," DeGregorio said of the third quarter. "We moved the ball well and got the ball inside and then inside to outside and got some good looks that created that space."

Joey Dopirak paced North Allegheny with 17 points.

"Joe is a post scorer and he had some free throws," DeGregorio said. "He had (five) points at the line which is great. We encourage our guys to be physical and get to the line. I think that was a big part of it, too. In that, I thought our guards did a nice job of finding him when he was open."

In the fourth quarter, New Castle posted 13 unanswered points of its own and started to chip away, but to no avail.

"We kept coming," Blundo said of the fourth quarter. "Marquis hit a huge 3, Damian hit some big 3s. We kept coming, but we still do some youthful things. Knowing how to win those types of games has been second nature to us for years. We just need to do a better job as coaches of teaching kids how to finish."

New Castle will travel to Butler on Tuesday to continue section play. That game is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start.

"We'll be ready to go," Blundo said on facing the Golden Tornado. "Our staff, we are in uncharted waters in terms of our position in the section. We're looking forward to the challenge of finding our way out."