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PIAA Boys' Basketball: Impenetrable defense keys Uniontown's win

Thursday, March 21, 2002

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

New Castle Coach John Sarandrea said Uniontown sometimes plays a "choking" style of defense. Last night, Uniontown never let New Castle up for air.

Uniontown's defense was superb, especially in the first half, and it led the Raiders to a 65-47 victory against New Castle in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal.

A huge crowd packed into the Palumbo Center for the game, a rematch of the WPIAL final a few weeks ago. New Castle's players felt crowded all night, too, as Uniontown's pressure man-to-man defense choked the PIAA life out of the Hurricanes.

"That's the type of defense I've seen our team play at times this season," said Uniontown Coach Dave Shuck, whose team allows only 50.5 points a game.

Uniontown held New Castle to its lowest point total this season. New Castle had been held below 60 points only six times before.

Uniontown's defense was at its best in the first half, and everything came up 11s for New Castle. New Castle could only get off 11 shots in the first half. The Hurricanes turned the ball over 11 times. And they scored only 11 points. This from a team that averages 72 a game.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," said senior guard Terrance Vaughns. "We practice defense a lot. Sometimes, we'll spend the majority of practice on defense."

Dom Joseph, who averages 17 points a game, had 15 for New Castle, but only five in the first half. New Castle trailed at halftime, 32-11. New Castle point guard Mark DeMonaco, the team's second-leading scorer, had only three points and did not have a field goal. He was 0 for 6 from the field.

"They choked the life out of us," Sarandrea said. "They do things defensively that most Western Pennsylvania teams don't have an answer for. Western Pennsylvania teams don't have players with the ability to break their man down and take him off the dribble. We don't have those players.

"And when guys are playing 6 inches off you, like Uniontown does, and you can't break them down and take them off the dribble, then you get choked. That's what happened."

Sarandrea used to be a high school coach in New York.

"See, in New York City, there are all kinds of players who can take you off the dribble," Sarandrea said.

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