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New Castle suffers Erie upset in OT

Erie McDowell rallies from 19-point deficit to shock Hurricanes

Thursday, March 25, 1999

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

All they had talked about this season was going to Hershey and winning a state title. For the mighty New Castle Hurricanes, that would be the way to put a stamp of greatness on their marvelous three-year run of success. They were in Hershey a year ago, and lost.

New Castle's Ed Pagley in the moments after last night's overtime loss to Erie McDowell in the PIAA Class AAAA semifinals. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette) 

But this time, they won't even get to smell the chocolate.

Erie McDowell 52, New Castle 48 in overtime. Please don't choke on your morning coffee.

New Castle's dream team went down in a PIAA Class AAAA semifinal last night at Pitt's Fitzgerald Field House as District 10 champion Erie McDowell (26-4) pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Pennsylvania high school basketball this season. New Castle had won seven postseason games by an average of 27 points. The hard line is this: New Castle (30-2) blew a 19-point lead with 4:39 left in the third quarter and did not score a point in overtime.

"Oh my gosh. I can't believe we came back," said McDowell guard Justin Shouse, who scorched New Castle for 25 points.

New Castle fell apart down the stretch. Star point guard Desmond Whetzel fouled out with 3:16 left in the fourth quarter. Shooting guard Ed Pagley fouled out with eight seconds left in overtime. And New Castle Coach John Sarandrea cried foul after the game.

Sarandrea blasted the three District 6 officials - Garry Dixson, Ted Beam and Darrell Jones. Then he said the PIAA couldn't suspend him for his comments because he was retiring.

When the game ended, Sarandrea rushed to Jim Collins, a WPIAL Board of Control member, and shouted, "You should be ashamed of what happened out there tonight."

New Castle had 25 fouls to McDowell's 20.

Sarandrea said it was the first time Whetzel fouled out in his career and it was only the second time for Pagley.

"I think the officials thought the fans came to see the referees instead of two good teams," Sarandrea said. "They're District 6 officials. They're not used to seeing good athletes. What consolation I have is that you all were here. You all witnessed it.

"I feel some high school kids got ripped off and that's a shame."

But Sarandrea also gave credit to McDowell for coming back from the 19-point deficit.

When Pagley hit a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter to give New Castle a 44-29 lead, it looked like the Hurricanes might coast to Hershey. But Shouse, a junior, brought McDowell back.

"I think them going man-to-man hurt them," McDowell Coach Pete Flinn said of New Castle. "They didn't guard us very well."

New Castle star David Young couldn't guard Shouse as Shouse scored eight points in the fourth quarter. Shouse's driving layup with 1:42 left brought McDowell within 47-44 and his two free throws with 27 seconds remaining gave McDowell a 48-47 lead.

"You could tell New Castle started getting tight. You could see it in their faces," Flinn said.

Young, who finished with a team-high 22 points, made one of two free throws with 18 seconds left to tie the game and send it into overtime. New Castle was 2 for 8 from the free-throw line in the final quarter.

The Hurricanes missed Whetzel dearly in the overtime, and Young missed all three shots he took in the extra period.

McDowell scored its four overtime points on free throws. Trailing by two, New Castle had one last chance to tie, but Larry Staples was called for a double dribble with 10 seconds left. Shouse made two free throws with eight seconds left to clinch it.

New Castle's locker room afterward was like a funeral home. Players cried. Young sat in his locker, simply staring straight ahead.

"It's been a great run," said Sarandrea, whose team had a 86-8 record the past three seasons. "I'm proud of the, but there aren't any words that can console them."

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