LOWELLVILLE, OH (WKBN)-The Lowellville Rockets are out to make a name for themselves. In front of a raucous home court crowd, the Rockets knocked off previous league leading McDonald 77-63 to claim a share of the ITCL’s Blue Tier with identical 5-1 records. The Rockets improve to 11-4 overall while the Devils drop just their second game on the year to 13-2.
“It’s a Lowellville – McDonald rivalry,” Rockets coach Vince Nattoli remarked. “Since I have been paying attention McDonald has pretty much dominated the ITCL. So it is my job since I got hired here last year was to try to change the mindset of we can beat anybody and we can play with anybody.”
“This game is huge after losing to them at their place and to come and get this, we know we can beat anybody now,” Rockets senior forward Cole Beatty said. “Hopefully we take this into the tournament.”
Beatty would lead the Rockets with 33 points, one shy of a career record and grab 12 rebound. He would also record 7 blocked shots on the night as he provided a strong force under the basket.
“This is what we have been trying to do all year, break the press and give me the ball and let me finish. That’s what we did tonight. It’s simple, nothing special,” Beatty explained.
Devils coach Jeff Rasile had very little to say in describing the Devils performance, “We stunk. I mean the kids were intimidated by Cole and our shooting percentage had to be absolutely pathetic. We stunk”
But the game started with the Devils looking like they might blow the Rockets out of the gym as they raced out to a 9-0 advantage midway through the first quarter. The Rockets responded with a 18-5 run the rest of the period to hold a 18-14 lead at the end of the quarter. The Rockets would push their advantage out to 8-points midway through the second quarter and would hold that same margin at the intermission 39-31.
Following a technical foul on the Devils at the 5:35 mark of the third quarter Beatty would connect on one of two foul shots to give them a 9-point, 46-37 lead. That is when the Devils would make a run at the Rockets, outscoring them 10-2 in the next two minutes to close to within one point at 48-47. But the Rockets would close the frame with a 5-2 run of their own, and hold a 53-49 lead the end of the quarter.
When Tyler Barone converted a steal into a basket at the 4 minute mark of the fourth quarter the Rockets pushed their lead to 13-points at 68-55. The Devils could not get any closer than 8-points the remaining four minutes of the contest.
“For a long time McDonald has owned Lowellville so to be the best you have to beat the best. That’s what we have got to keep our eyes on,” Nittoli said.
In addition to Beatty’s 33 points, senior Tyler Barone racked up 23 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and 4 steals.
“My seniors, the leadership has grown so much throughout the year. We have ten guys on the bench who are seniors. I think this second half of the year, after the first of year – 2016, these guys have just basically said that this is it for us. So I think they really take every practice and every game to heart and it’s self motivation now,” Nittoli described Beatty’s and Barone’s performance.
The Blue Devils were led by Jake Reckard with 14 points while Zack Fedyski added 12 and Matt Howard contributed 10.
The Rockets will travel to Southern in their next game Tuesday night. The Devils will try to regroup as they host East Palestine Tuesday night.