North Hills cruises past New Castle girls

Feb. 2—The New Castle High girls basketball team suffered another section setback on Thursday.

North Hills cruised past New Castle, 55-22, in a WPIAL Section 2-5A game at the Ne-Ca-Hi Field House.

"It's huge. I told the girls the win tonight clinches an overall winning season record for North Hills girls basketball," North Hills coach Tony Grenek said. "To be honest with you, I'm not even sure the last time that's happened. It's been at least seven or eight years, maybe even more. Just to have a winning season, we're very thankful and the girls really earned it."

The Lady 'Canes are now 0-11 in section action and 2-18 overall.

"It's tough. Losing is tough," New Castle coach Kara DiNardo-Joseph said. "It was senior night so the main focus at the end was obviously the loss and how we need to get better. We're not a young team, but we're not mature on the court. We're going up against five seniors a night with very seasoned teams and we're just now starting to gel a little bit better.

"I just tell them, 'Any given night, anything can happen.' We made some runs in the first half and then we missed three box outs and they hit a 3. That can't happen. You have to stay locked in for 32 minutes and we haven't been able to put together a full game this season and you have to. We're in a tough section, we go up against tough teams every night and we have to be our best each and every minute we play."

North Hills' size advantage gave them key possessions throughout the first quarter to rack up a 20-4 lead.

"I think because (North Hills') defense was so tight, they're long and they were able to expand their zone on us," DiNardo-Joseph said. "It was hard for us to catch, shoot and get our shots off. When we went trap, I think we kind of caught them off guard and got the momentum a little bit there with our trap defense and we got them to force some shots."

In the second quarter, New Castle managed to outscore the Lady Indians, 10-7.

"We went to our trap defense. With (Gie Sturdivant) out we thought we could trap them and maybe fluster them a little bit and it worked to our advantage," DiNardo-Joseph said. "But, there were times also where we got really good shots and we didn't put the ball in the hoop."

North Hills (8-2, 11-8) entered halftime with a 13-point lead over the Lady 'Canes. Foul trouble was prevalent for both teams throughout the game.

"To New Castle's credit, they were going through the same thing. There were a lot of fouls called both ways," Grenek said. "It was very tough for either team to kind of get into a flow. I told the team at halftime, 'You're doing a great job. There's just a lot of fouls being called.'"

Olivia Waters paced North Hills with a game-high 16 points.

"She's been our rock-solid, steady point guard the past couple of years," Grenek said of Waters. "We can always count on Liv. Not only will she score the ball sometimes, but she's a great ball handler and an assist giver as well. It's nothing unusual."

The Lady Indians' best quarter came in the third after netting 24 points to New Castle's five. With 1:11 remaining in the third, Gie Sturdivant sank a bucket to give North Hills a 30-point lead and force the mercy rule clock.

"Thankfully, we were able to come out strong in the third quarter and were able to finish some shots and separate ourselves a little bit," Grenek said.

Grenek said he was happy with defensive execution for the most part.

"I thought, especially in the second half, we really locked in our zone and were able to make ourselves long," he said. "It probably was the difference in the game right there."

Raegan Hudson, the lone senior on New Castle's roster, led her team with 10 points.

"Raegan has been through the best of times and the worst. She was there for the playoffs; she's been there every day grinding it out," DiNardo-Joseph said. "To watch her grow up in this program from the third grade and on has been an honor. She's one of a kind and it's only fitting that she's our only senior this year and that she would lead the scorers tonight for us. No matter what with Raegan, she's going to play hard. She's always going to put her best effort whether it's at practice or here.

"These last few games, she's really gotten that senior mentality that I preach to them. She's understanding it now. We'll enjoy this last (home) game with her and we'll be sad to see her go. But, I know whatever she does in life, she'll do it to the highest and she'll be successful."

With 5:06 remaining in the game, Grenek took his starters out.

New Castle will finish up its season at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mars.