LOWELLVILLE, OHIO (WKBN) – It wasn’t vital for the McDonald Blue Devils to win their game Friday night at Lowellville. After all, they have wrapped up the MVAC conference title and they have secured a number one seed in the division four tournament. But coming off a loss to Struthers on Tuesday night, the Devils 84-53 win over Lowellville Friday night was actually pretty important.
”It really means nothing, other than we really didn’t want to go into the tournament with a two-game losing streak,” Devils head coach Jeff Rasile remarked. “When this game got re-scheduled, and we looked at our schedule, we had some tough games. We had Champion, Struthers, and Lowellville back-to-back-to-back. Those aren’t easy games.”
“It meant a lot,” Devils forward Braedon Poole added about the importance of the victory. “We didn’t want to go into the tournament 0 and 2. So coming in here, especially since we could play them in the district finals, it sets a tone for the tournament. Beating them by thirty points is a huge win.”
With the victory, the Blue Devils end the regular season with a 20-2 overall mark and finish 14-0 in the league. The Rockets drop to 17-5 on the year, 11-3 in the MVAC.
After the Rockets took a 7-6 lead at the 5:14 mark of the first quarter, the Devils exploded on a 14-4 run to close the stanza. They would hold a 20-11 advantage at the end of the period.
But the game really started to get away from the Rockets midway through the second quarter when the Rockets standout guard Matt Hvisdak was whistled for his third foul of the game. Hvisdak tossed the ball in frustration resulting in a technical foul being called against him and giving him four fouls.
The Devils took full advantage of the absence of Hvisdak who sat on the bench for the remainder of the first half. The Devils would then go on a 16-4 run to pull away from the Rockets. The Devils would hold a commanding 41-15 lead at the intermission.
“I’ve known Matt a long time. He played travel ball with Zach (Rasile) for many, many years. And when we got Matt in foul trouble, he’s really the key. He’s a great player, one of the best players in the league,” coach Rasile explained. “When we were able to sit him down, it’s a game changer for Lowellville.”
“That obviously hurt us,” Rockets head coach Matt Olson admitted. “He lost his cool a little bit there. McDonald was face guarding him and double teaming him trying to get the ball out of his hands. And they were doing a good job of that. So it was frustrating to Matt.”
The Devils would continue to apply pressure to the Rockets in the second half as they outscored the Rockets 28-19 in the third frame, holding a 69-34 lead at the end of the period. The Rockets would win the fourth and final frame, outscoring the Devils 19-15 to close within the 31-point difference of 84-53.
Zach Rasile would lead the Blue Devils with 31 points on the night while Poole had 30. No other Devils would reach double figures in the scoring column. Poole would dominate on the boards as he hauled down 13 rebounds.
“Braedon dominated the first half, Zach dominated the second half,” Rasile commented. “It’s a pick and choose. I just wanted them to stay aggressive. I didn’t want them to shut down and just go through the motions.”
Micah Mamula-Zarlingo led the Rockets on the scoreboard with 16 points, including 4 three-pointers. Nate Solak would also reach double figures as he netted 12 points on the night. Jake Rotz would grab 7 caroms to lead the Rockets on the boards.
“It affected us tremendously, to be honest,” Olson said of the team suffering from flu symptoms all week. “We have all been passing it around. Nate Solak and Alex Mamula, two of our senior starters haven’t practiced all week. This week has been a struggle.”
Both the Devils and the Rockets will have the next week to prepare for the tournament play. The Devils will host the winner of the Wellsville and St. Thomas Aquinas game next Friday, March 2nd. The Rockets will welcome the break as they attempt to get healthy. They will also host a second-round game as they will face the winner of the East Canton and Sebring game on the 2nd.
McDonald at Lowellville High School Boys Basketball: February 23, 2018
McDonald at Lowellville High School Boys Basketball: February 23, 2018 x