Top-seeded McDonald had no trouble advancing to district play.
By JOHN BASSETTI
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- Second-seeded Western Reserve went home feeling pretty lousy after losing to unseeded Leetonia, but Lake Center Christian of Hartville went home knowing they were soundly beaten by McDonald in Friday's Division IV sectional championship games at the Struthers Fieldhouse.
"This is such a huge night for Leetonia basketball, it's just so rewarding," Leetonia coach Jay Airhart said following the Bears' 43-33 win.
It was Leetonia's first sectional title since 1989 and only the third in school history.
After dispatching Lake Center Christian, 72-46, McDonald (15-7) will give Leetonia (10-11) its next test, Monday at 7 p.m.
"We've got two days to prepare, so we'll see what happens," McDonald coach Jeff Rasile said.
Huge lead early
Bradley Hinton scored 28 points and had 16 rebounds to lead McDonald, which jumped out to a 22-4 lead.
"I think that demoralized them a bit," Rasile said. "We got them in foul trouble, including 6-5 Thomas Lawver, who got his third foul early in the third quarter.
"We told our kids before the game that we have to beat them to every loose ball and every rebound. We did that early on and I think that was the key to the game."
Hinton averages 13 rebounds per game. Steven Hughes was the only other Blue Devil player in double figures with 13 points.
Due to foul trouble, Andy Timko only had six points.
"We didn't get the game we expected from him," Rasile said, "but, overall, he gave a good effort."
In Timko's place, Nick Rusinowski and Matt Firment stepped up.
Lake Center Christian finished 11-10.
Against Western Reserve, the second quarter was crucial for the Bears, who overcame a six-point deficit to go ahead, 21-17, at the half.
The combination of a full-court press and half-court pressure was a big part of the momentum-changing period.
"We told our kids that they [Western Reserve] were going to break it [the press] a few times, especially early," Airhart said. "They might break it a few times and get some layups, but we couldn't get frustrated. We had to keep the pressure on and, hopefully, wear them down.
"Our whole plan was that we couldn't let them set up at half-court," Airhart said. "I think because we were flying around and trapping all over the place, we didn't let them get very comfortable.
"When they did shoot, we did a great job of crashing the boards and I think the pressure really started to wear on them in the middle quarters and toward the end."
Jon Williams had a game-high 11 points for Leetonia, which didn't make a field goal in the fourth quarter.
In the final period, the Bears made 12-of-21 free throws while Western Reserve converted 4-of-7.
The Blue Devils, however, did make a 3-point goal and a two-pointer in the final eight minutes.
Airhart emphasized how Bears boys basketball has been hurting.
"It's a program that's been down for a lot of years. Two years ago we were 1-20 and last year we were 2-19," he said
Western Reserve had at least a dozen turnovers by halftime.
"That's been our problem all year -- handling the pressure and turning the ball over," Western Reserve coach Steve Miller said. "We knew game in and game out what we were going to get [from other teams].
"We knew how they were going to attack us; they kind of ran from one trap to the next -- kind of the way we were played by Mineral Ridge and obviously that gave us problems because we lost twice to them."
Losing the lead has been a problem for Reserve.
"Our whole thing this year is that we had to play from on top," Miller said. "Once they [Leetonia] got up, we were in trouble."
Chris Truitt and Joe Petro had seven points apiece for Reserve (14-8).