MCDONALD, OH (WKBN)-Led by senior guard Sara Joseph, the McDonald girls basketball team have started a new era for the Blue Devils as they have advanced in the Division IV sectional tournament courtesy of a 48-30 win Saturday afternoon over the Leetonia Bears. The tournament win marks the first time in over three years that the Devils have won a game in the post-season, and it improves their record on the season to 19-5.
“It’s a big game. I mean it was our last home game, the seniors will never play on this court again. We haven’t had a tournament win in three years so it’s always nice. We just have to move on from this one and prepare for the next one,” Joseph said.
“We’ve come a long way to say the least,” Devils coach Amy Dolsak remarked. “I’m just really proud of our girls and how they went out there and they gave it their all. I know what this means to them and I know they don’t want it to come to an end.”
“You have got to take your hat off to McDonald. They are a well coached team,” Bears coach John Hritz added. “Their kids play hard.”
The Devils led throughout the contest as they held a 11-5 advantage at the end of the first quarter, and then went up by as much as ten points early in the second frame. However, the Bears would go on a 8-0 run with Kristy Eckman scoring a bucket at the 3:19 mark of the quarter to cut the deficit down to just two points at 15-13. But the Devils would close the half with a matching 8-0 run to hold a 23-13 lead at halftime.
The Devils continued to pull away starting the second half as they went on a 7-2 run, holding a 15-point 30-15 lead courtesy of a Samantha Homa basket at the 5:47 mark of the period. Once again the Bears tried to claw their way back into the game, cutting the Devils lead down to ten points midway through the stanza. But that is when Joseph started to take over the game as she poured in 9 of her 23 game-high points in the quarter. The Devils would close the quarter with a 15-point, 40-25 lead. The Bears could not cut into the Devils lead in the fourth quarter, being outscored 8-5 in the frame as the Devils worked the ball around the court forcing the Bears to gamble and commit fouls.
“They have two super ball players in 12 (Homa) and 0 (Joseph), and Joseph did the job. In big ball games good players win big ball games. We had no one to stop her,” Hritz explained.
“Sarah really stepped us for us today, but I’m not surprised,” Dolsak remarked. “I know how much this means to her and she’s going to do whatever she need to in order to make it happen.”
In addition to the 23 points scored by Joseph, Hannah Donkers was the only other Devil in double digits with 10 points. Joseph also pulled down 6 rebounds while Homa added another 4.
With the victory, the Blue Devils will now play the Valley Christian Eagles Wednesday night at Mineral Ridge High School. “No matter who we play it’s going to be tough and we really have to come out and play hard. None of us want it to be our last (game). We have come so far this year and losing now is not an option for us,” Joseph remarked.
For the Bears, who finish the season with a 11-12 record, only four players got into the scoring column with Eckman pacing them with19 points. Kayla Jackson would haul down 6 rebounds while Eckman grabbed 5 to lead the Bears on the boards.
“We improved from the first year by five (win) ball games. We’re young and we’re looking forward to next season because we have most of the kids back. We only lose two seniors and overall I’m satisfied, but I wish we could have done a little better. Every coach wishes that,” Hritz concluded.