Allderdice assistant coach Andy Pakler could finally admit that his now 20-1 Dragons team had one game in mind and it was Monday’s contest against New Castle, which came in as one of two undefeated WPIAL teams.
Those expecting a close game would leave the Allderdice gymnasium disappointed as the Dragons came away with a 75-49 victory.
The contest was billed as “the game of the year” and showcased the top WPIAL Class AAA team in the Red Hurricanes and top class AAAA team and 58th ranked high school program in the country in Allderdice.
“100 percent this game has been circled since we lost to New Castle at the buzzer last year,” Pakler said. “Not just because it was senior night, but we wanted to have a great program win against New Castle. It was a great night for Allderdice.”
1,400 tickets were sold and those who came late were forced to stand or sit on the steps and trap those sitting in the stands. Any one who did try to walk up and get tickets were greeted with a sign which read “sold out”, a reminder of the game’s magnitude.
A line in fact had already formed more than three hours prior to the opening tip.
“I just looked at a picture from 1988, the last time the gym was this crowded, and William Herndon was here,” said Pakler. “I’m just glad to be part of it. We made some history tonight.”
Not only did New Castle fall to 21-1 with the loss, but it also suffered its worst defeat since 2010. Aliquippa is the lone undefeated WPIAL team remaining.
“This caps off our season and proves that we are the best team in Western Pennsylvania,” guard Ramon Creighton said. “This makes us feel that we can play and beat any WPIAL team and we’re going to take it 110 percent no matter who we are up against.”
Guard James Jackson scored 23 points for Allderdice and both Creighton as well as Tim Jackson added 12 points.
Allderdice faced a big test in the first quarter trailing 12-8 with guard Tim Jackson on the bench with two fouls. Instead of panicking, the Dragons ended the quarter on a 6-0 run capped off by two James Jackson transition dunks. What could have been a disaster for Allderdice proved to be the exact opposite, it was a launching pad.
It was as if a message was being sent. What happened last year was not going to occur again.
“We have experienced these kinds of scenarios throughout the season,” coach Buddy Valinsky said. “We have people step up. We’re able to rally around and when you get in those situations where our starters are on the bench, somehow someone else picks up the slack.”
This momentum carried into the second quarter where the Dragons outscored the Red Hurricanes 21-7. Allderdice switched to a 1-3-1 defense and it was too much for New Castle to handle. A couple of second quarter Red Hurricane timeouts did not solve anything either.
By halftime New Castle had played right into Allderdice’s hand. It was tired and appeared relieved that halftime had come. In fact it was hard to tell whether New Castle or its 200 fans that made the trip were more worn out.
“We looked for the other team to get frustrated,” said Pakler. “We want them to get tired of bringing the ball up the floor against our zone.”
In addition to the usual contribution from the Jackson brothers and Creighton, Tim Pugh had a nine point, five block and six rebound performance in the victory.
“That was the x-factor we didn’t have last year, he was really good,” said Valinsky. “He told me after the game he was exhausted. I’m sure (New Castle coach) Ralph (Blundo) didn’t think Timmy Pugh would play as well as he did. Truthfully that was the best game he’s ever played.”
Allderdice continued its dominance in the second half and despite New Castle making some 3-point shots, it could not remain in the game and watched helplessly as the Dragons pulled away.
A win of this magnitude by such a significant margin validates everything the Dragons have worked for.
Early in the season, Allderdice suffered its lone loss to date and after the wins piled up, so did the respect. Now the Dragons are considered the top AAAA team in the state.
If you think Allderdice would let up after receiving such an honor, you thought wrong.
“As soon as we got ranked one, they didn’t sit back, they have proven it every night,” Valinsky said. “That’s a compliment to them that they want to go out and show people why they are where they are. It is unusual for a Western Pennsylvania team to be ranked one.”
The night began with senior recognition and ended with applause from all in attendance as the New Castle fans headed for the exits with two minutes left in the game.
Valinsky called it a “first class night” and Creighton could finally smile as he allowed everything to sink in.
“It was the most fun moment of my life,” said Creighton. “There was no space and people still stood up. New Castle is used to this. We played in a couple of gyms we played in, but for it to happen at our home gym at our last home game of the season is something I will always remember.”
Photo credit: Zachary Weiss