The Rams used defense to top 15th-ranked McDonald.
MINERAL RIDGE - Tenacity and teamwork by the Mineral Ridge High boys basketball team led to turnovers and victory, as the Rams upset Inter-County League rival McDonald 59-49 Friday.
The Rams (7-8, 3-4 ICL) used an intense 1-3-1 zone press to force the Blue Devils into 15 first half turnovers that resulted in a 24-20 halftime lead. Things did not improve for McDonald in the third quarter, when the Rams' defensive intensity continued, holding the 15th-ranked Devils (12-2, 6-1) to just five points over the eight-minute span.
"Their [Rams] pressure in the first half hurt us, I don't even know why or how," said McDonald coach Jeff Rasile. "We lost the game in the first half because they controlled everything that we wanted to do. Even though the score was 24-20 they controlled the tempo running up and down, up and down.
"They're probably the most athletic team in the conference. We don't mind getting out [and running] but when you get out you've got to take care of the ball and get good shots. The turnovers killed us."
Mineral Ridge junior forward Vance Keirsey led four Rams in double figures with 21 points. Junior guards Wade Campbell and Micah Hall each netted 11 and junior guard Nick Diana chipped in with 10.
Keirsey said the Rams' tenacity was a combination of avenging two losses to McDonald earlier in the season and of wanting to hand the Blue Devils their second consecutive loss. McDonald fell from the ranks of the undefeated with a 71-64 loss at Windham on Tuesday.
"We stepped it up tonight because of the rivalry and we wanted to give them two losses," said Keirsey, who also had nine rebounds. "We were pumped up. We wanted to stop [James] Beedle and [Mark] Macali and the game would be ours.
"Hopefully, this will give us some momentum heading into the second half of the season and get us playing better as a team. This game should turn us around."
Rams hold on
The Rams, who led by as many as 15 in the third quarter, found that lead cut to 44-42 when McDonald senior Tyler Stanley drove the baseline and scored at the 4:08 mark in the fourth.
Beedle, a senior and McDonald's leading scorer, was held to just six points in the first half, then took over in the fourth, scoring the first 12 points of the quarter to cut the Rams' lead to 43-37. Beedle finished with a game-high 22 points, while Macali, who averages 14 points per game, was held to just three.
The Rams regained their momentum at the 3:56 mark when Keirsey scored from the left block on a pass from Diana -- who finished the game with six assists -- to take a 46-42 lead. Just 12 seconds later, Hall scored on a layup and was fouled by Blue Devils junior Corey Vukovic, and completed the three-point play that all but sealed the victory for the Rams.
"I think our speed really showed tonight," said Mineral Ridge coach Del Ruiter. "We were just all over the court. We had a balanced attack. Coming into the game we wanted to control the boards, we had to play defense and we had to take care of the basketball. It was kind of shaky there for a while, but the guards came through in the end and it was a total team effort.
"That was something we emphasized that all week - play like a team."