AMBRIDGE — Seneca Valley couldn’t make free throws in the second quarter — and New Castle was offering no second chances.
The Red Hurricane ran away from the Raiders in the second half — going on an 18-2 run into the fourth quarter — to post a 71-46 victory in a WPIAL Class AAAA boys basketball semifinal Wednesday night at Ambridge High School.
The victory was New Castle’s third this season over the Raiders (17-8) — by margins of 23, 34 and 25 points — and its 52nd win in 53 games over the past two seasons.
“They’re a very good team,” SV coach Victor Giannotta said. “We tried some different things to hang with them. Obviously, those things didn’t work.”
SV never led in the game and trailed 36-24 at halftime despite missing six free throws in the second quarter, including the front end of a one-and-one.
The Raiders were 5 of 15 from the charity stripe for the night. New Castle sank 15 of 19 free throws.
“Yeah, if we make a few of those, the game is closer, maybe our guys have more hop in their step ... It might have made a difference, who knows?,” Giannotta said.
New Castle sank three trsin the first quarter and took an eight-point lead in the first eight minutes. But the Raiders stayed in the game, pulling within 46-35 on an Eric Woods trey with 2:22 left in the third.
“I wasn’t surprised at all by how well they played tonight,” New Castle coach Ralph Blundo said of Seneca Valley. “They’re a good team and they’ve been getting better.
“We went into scoring droughts at times, but it was more because of Seneca’s defense than our execution. They made our shots a lot more difficult.”
Once SV got within 46-35, New Castle put together its 18-2 run to end the competitive portion of the game. Shawn Anderson sank two free throws and Antonio Rudolph drained a trey before the end of the third quarter.
The ‘Canes forced a few turnovers and capitalized in transition the other way during the first half of the final period.
“They had a few four-point swings in this game after we missed some shots,” Giannotta said.
Anderson paced the ‘Canes with 28 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Anthony Richards contributed 13 points, Rudolph 11 points and three steals, Malik Hooker eight points, six rebounds and three assists despite playing in foul trouble.
“Shawn Anderson is a great player, great human being and a great leader,” Blundo said.
“Anderson is an amazing player,” Giannotta said.
Easton Bazzoli paced the Raiders with 18 points, adding four rebounds and two assists. Ryan McCauley had eight rebounds, Alex Snyder seven for SV, which enjoyed a slight 27-26 edge on the boards.
“We kept them off the offensive boards a lot better tonight than we did in our first two games with them,” Bazzoli said. “But we couldn’t generate enough offense to challenge them.
“Those missed free throws hurt and I was a part of that.”
New Castle suffered nine turnovers to Seneca Valley’s 16. Of the ‘Canes 25 wins this season, 19 have been by a margin of more than 20 points.
“When our offense wasn’t there tonight, our defense enabled us to maintain the lead,” Blundo said. “Once the lead was comfortable enough late, we were able to spread the floor a bit and make them chase us.”
Seneca Valley returns to action March 9 in the PIAA Tournament.
SENECA VALLEY 46
Zach Snyder 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Darby 0-2 0-3 0, Easton Bazzoli 8-14 2-5 18, Mike Smith 0-0 0-0 0, TJ Holl 3-3 1-2 7, Eric Woods 2-5 0-0 6, R.J. McCauley 2-10 1-3 5, Alex Snyder 3-7 1-2 7, Chad Izenas 0-2 0-0 0, Matt Dramblo 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 19-44 5-15 46.
NEW CASTLE 71
Brandon Domenick 0-4 2-2 2, Jesse Salzano 0-0 0-0 0, Drew Allen 3-6 0-0 7, Antonio Rudolph 4-7 1-211, Shawn Anderson 10-18 6-7 28, Anthony Richards 3-8 4-4 13, Malik Hooker 3-5 2-2 8, Stew Allen 0-0 0-2 0, Jake McPhatter 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 24-49 15-19 71.
Seneca Valley 15 9 11 11—46
New Castle23 13 15 20—71
3-point goals: Woods 2, Dramblo; D.Allen, Rudolph 2, Anderson 2, Richards 3