MCDONALD, OH (WKBN)-South Range and McDonald were long-time rivals when they faced each other in the ICL. A despite now being in different division of the ITCL they still play games that are hard-fought and passionate.
McDonald overcame a slow start in the first half to pulled away in the fourth quarter in route to a 76-69 victory over the Raiders. The win improves the Blue Devils record to 14-1 on the season. The Raiders fall to 10-4.
After the two teams traded leads in the first half with the Raiders leading 19-18 at the end of the first quarter and 36-35 at intermission, the Devils went on a 8-3 run to start the fourth quarter to pull out to a 63-56 lead with 4:49 remaining in the contest. They would increase their advantage to game high 8-points with 2:01 remaining when Jake Reckard hit one of two free throws.
But the Raiders would continue to keep the Devils from adding to their lead as they came within 3-points with just under a minute remaining on a basket by Preston Stitt at 69-72. Joey Ragazzini and Reckard would add clutch free throws in the final 32-sethe contest to seal the victory.
“I think the key in the first half was that we obviously didn’t come out and play as hard as we wanted to play. We didn’t shoot the ball very well tonight and that is a compliment to them,” Devils coach Jeff Rasile remarked. “We just told them at halftime, just play harder.”
Much of the strength of the Devils second half emergence came from their 6’4 senior forward Matt Howard who chipped in 6 points and grabbed 6 rebounds and forced two steals. He struggled a bit early in the game but as coach Rasile pointed out that has been Howard’s season.
“Matt is really starting to come around now. He struggled early in the year. We are a better team when Matt is playing great basketball because he can control the boards. He’s a big body inside with defensive rebounds and hitting the offensive boards.”
The Devils had quality contributions by several players as Reckard led them in scoring with 13 points, followed by Howard and Braedon Poole with 11. Joey Ragazzini and Zack Fedyski each contributed another 9 points.
“Not taking anything away from Springfield, but I thought our kids turned the gas up a little bit (tonight) because we knew we were in against a quality team, just like Springfield. But very few teams get McDonald out of their heavy pressure and they did back it off a little bit. There was a key spurt where we missed seven straight shots. You have to be productive throughout the whole game against them,” Raiders coach John Cullen said.
The loss for the Raiders overshadowed a tremendous performance by their senior guard Preston Stitt who netted a game-high 28 points on the night. His teammate Brandon Youngs pumped in another 20 points.
The Blue Devils also captured the j-v contest in similar fashion as they pulled out a fourth quarter 61-58 thriller. Brady White scored a game-high 17 points while Caleb Emerson led the Devils with 16.