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WPIAL Boys' AAAA Playoffs: Defense sparks New Castle win

Hurricanes unbeaten after 70-66 victory

Thursday, February 28, 2002

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

New Castle changed styles last night, not using a full-court press and rarely using a 1-2-2 half-court trap. Both defenses have been staples of the Hurricanes all season.

But in the end, nothing really changed for New Castle. The Hurricanes went out in the same old style -- with a victory.

New Castle kept its record perfect with a 70-66 victory against Kiski Area in a WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal before a big crowd at the Palumbo Center.

The win gives New Castle a 27-0 record and gives the Hurricanes a chance to become only the second team to win a WPIAL AAAA title with an undefeated record. New Castle will have its long awaited championship showdown against Uniontown at noon Saturday at Palumbo. Uniontown defeated Mt. Lebanon, 73-52, in the other semifinal last night at Ringgold.

"I think the difference in the game was us not pressing them," said New Castle Coach John Sarandrea. "I realize I could've left myself open for a lot of criticism had we lost, because that's the way we've played all year."

Sarandrea learned some things when New Castle beat Kiski Area, 74-67, in the Blackhawk Tournament in December. In that game, Kiski Area thwarted New Castle's press and the Hurricanes' half-court trap.

"It wasn't easy to play them man-to-man because [Joey] Tutchstone gives you matchup problems," Sarandrea said.

Tutchstone, a 6-foot-3 senior point guard for Kiski Area (22-5), scored 20 points. Corey Smith added 16, and Curt Kiebler and Greg Hutcherson 11 apiece.

New Castle also had four players in double figures. Senior forward Dom Joseph and senior point guard Mark DeMonaco had 17 points apiece. Senior guard Dante Spino had 12 and sophomore forward Chris Cain 10.

New Castle committed 21 turnovers, seven in the first quarter, and had to come back from a six-point halftime deficit. It was only the third time this season New Castle trailed at halftime. One of the other times was against Kiski Area. The Hurricanes also trailed by nine points in the third quarter.

"We knew Kiski Area was good and it would be a tough game," DeMonaco said. "But we never really get worried because we know we can go on a run at anytime in the game. I thought our defense in the second half was the biggest key to the game."

Another key might have been a missed dunk by Smith in the fourth quarter. With his team trailing by four points (53-49), Smith got a steal and had a breakaway. But instead of a layup, Smith (6-5) decided to dunk. But the ball slammed off the back rim. Mike Rairigh grabbed the rebound but missed an outside shot.

The large throng of New Castle fans cheered as New Castle grabbed the rebound and Joseph quickly scored at the other end.

Kiski Area Coach Larry Rupert felt bad for Smith after the game.

"I don't want to say anything about the dunk," he said. "There were some things we could've done better and nobody knows that more than [Smith]."

Sarandrea said: "I'm not saying that dunk cost them the game, but it certainly didn't help them. I tell our kids, when they start giving you three points for dunks, then we'll start working on dunking."

New Castle held a 57-49 lead with four minutes left before Kiski Area mounted a comeback. Hutcherson got a steal and layup with 2:17 left to make it 61-59. With 30 seconds left, Smith missed a 3-pointer that could have tied the score. For the game, Kiski Area shot 17 percent (4 for 23) from 3-point range.

"We made some mental mistakes tonight," Rupert said. "We took some quick shots and some quick 3-pointers without getting set."

Tutchstone made a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to bring Kiski Area within 68-66, but DeMonaca was fouled with 8.6 remaining, and he sank both free throws to clinch the win. DeMonaco was 9 of 11 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

In the other semifinal, Mt. Lebanon (18-9) stayed close to Uniontown (25-1) for four minutes. Then Uniontown went on a 24-7 run to take a 30-15 lead. Mt. Lebanon never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

"We had a little bit of anxiety early, but we settled down and played our game," Uniontown Coach Dave Shuck said. "Our defense was good the entire game. We created some turnovers and scored points off them."

Senior guard Terrance Vaughns led Uniontown with 25 points. Chris Jacobs and Dierre Jenkins added 17 apiece. Max Jones scored 16 for Mt. Lebanon and Travis Bluemling 11.

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