STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – Usually there are not two winners of a basketball game, but in Friday night’s Division IV District championship game at the Struthers Field House both teams came away feeling pretty good about themselves.
The second seeded McDonald Blue Devils punched their ticket to the Canton regional semi-finals with a 67-48 victory over the Wellsville Tigers to improve to 23-3 on the season. They will face Cleveland Heights Lutheran East Tuesday night at the Canton Field House.
“It’s nice, you know our goals are the same every year in to get to this game and give ourselves a shot at winning. It takes it to another level. It’s hard to compete for a state championships and we recognize that,” Blue Devils coach John Rasile remarked. “This in many ways is a state championship for us, but we’re hoping at the next level, at the regional level, we can compete this year.”
“It’s a great feeling. We worked very hard for this,” Devils senior guard Jake Reckard said. “For a lot of us this is our fourth time here and it’s a great feeling to get this win.”
Although the Tigers came up short on the scoreboard, their coach Bug Thompson was very upbeat about his team, “These guys played all year, this is just more experience for them. We have the whole team back next year so this is something to build on right here. Nobody thought we would make it this far. People thought we would win 13 – 14 games, and we won 20. So I can’t complain.”
The fourth seeded Tigers looked like they might carry the momentum they gained from their 74-55 upset win over the top seeded Lisbon Blue Devils Tuesday night into the Struthers Field House as they seized the early momentum in the game and raced out to a 16-7 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Devils closed the quarter with a 7-4 run to make it 20-14 at the end of the frame.
“In the first half, especially early they were lobbing over our heads and taking off, and we couldn’t make a shot,” Rasile explained. “We were pounding the boards, we just couldn’t make a shot.”
The Devils would eventually take the lead at 21-20 with 4:57 left in the second quarter when the Devils Jake Reckard connected on a three-point shot from the top of the key. But when the Tigers Jake Green hit a shot with only 40-seconds remaining in the quarter, the two teams would go to the halftime locker rooms knotted at 29-29.
With the start of the second half the Devils would come out on a 9-2 run and open up a 7-point, 38-31 lead midway through the quarter. But to their credit the Tigers keep the Devils within reach at the end of the stanza with the score 43-36.
“We cracked, we cracked,” Thompson said of the Devils second half defensive pressure. “Turnovers and missed layups, that’s what killed us tonight. Just the pressure. It’s like you can’t breath. You know what Jeff (Rasile) is going to do.
“I think the constant pressure wore them down a little bit,” Rasile agreed. “It got into their heads a little bit.”
“That’s the thing with the press, it might not work the first couple of quarters, but that second half when everyone’s legs are tired we try to find it in us to work harder and we did,” Reckard added.
Following foul shots by Dylan Portolese, Evan Magil, and Braedon Poole, the Devils margin bulged out to 14-points at 50-36 with 6:30 remaining in the contest. Jake Green would connect on three consecutive three-pointers for the Tigers to cut the Devils advantage down to 9-points at 54-45, but that was as close as the Tigers would get the remainder of the game.
The Tigers would be led by Jake Green with 23 points on the night, including 5 shots from beyond the arc. Brazen Grodhaus would haul down 8 rebounds.
The Devils had a solid team effort as Reckard would score 14 points, while Braedon Poole and Zack Fedyski would come off the bench to score 13 and 12 respectfully. Dylan Portolese would grab 8 rebounds.