HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) — New Castle from Pittsburgh completed a perfect season Saturday night.
The Red Hurricanes became the first WPIAL (District 7) school to win a PIAA Class AAAA boys basketball championship since 2004 with an explosive final nine minutes against La Salle College.
Ohio State football recruit Malik Hooker saved his best for that late push by New Castle. The 6-1 senior scored nine points in that final nine minutes to help lift the Red Hurricanes to a 52-39 victory at Giant Center.
In a game where each offense was content to slow the pace and work its half-court offense, New Castle (31-0) led by only four points in the dying seconds of the third quarter.
Hooker, who had just four points at this point through nearly 24 minutes, beat the third-quarter buzzer with a nifty dribble-drive layup to give the Red Hurricanes a 30-24 lead entering the final quarter.
“It was one of those buckets we really needed, and then we just went on a roll,” Hooker said. “They had been on a bit of a roll up to that point, so it was a big momentum builder for us that carried into the fourth quarter.”
New Castle’s defense was stellar all night and limited La Salle (23-7) out of the Philadelphia Catholic League to only 15 field goals and 38 percent shooting from the floor.
“We just wanted to make sure our bodies were between their bodies and the basket at all times,” Hooker said. “I thought we played better defense in the second half.”
Hooker and fellow senior Drew Allen each finished with 13 points. Hooker also added 13 rebounds and four assists. The Red Hurricanes outrebounded the Explorers 52-39 overall.
La Salle junior Najee Walls led all scorers with 15 points and Shawn Witherspoon added 10.
New Castle scored 14 of its 22 fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line. The Explorers attempted only 14 free throws.