The Blue Devils close out their regular season Friday against Lowellville.
NEW MIDDLETOWN — The McDonald High boys basketball team kept its hopes alive for a second consecutive perfect season by turning back Springfield 70-55 in a tough non-conference win on the road Tuesday night.
The Blue Devils (19-0) can wrap up another undefeated season with a win at home Friday against Lowellville.
McDonald, ranked second in the most recent Division IV Associated Press state poll, has now won 41 consecutive regular-season games over the past three campaigns.
“We don’t really think of things like that,” said McDonald coach Jeff Rasile after his team pulled away from a tight three-point game midway through the third quarter. “We’re just happy to come out here and get a big win on the road.
“But we do have a tough game Friday against Lowellville at home to close out our season.”
Mathias Tayala scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds while sitting out most of the third quarter with three fouls to lead McDonald.
Justin Rota added 13 points while Devin Bansberg chipped in with eight points and seven rebounds.
McDonald’s defensive pressure, a full-court pressing defense, proved too much for Springfield to handle in the fourth quarter.
“It’s what we do,” said Rasile about the huge momentum swings in the game. “Those 8-0 runs come from the pressure, and then we start to put the game away.
“We hit our free throws, too, for a change, and that made a huge difference.”
McDonald connected on 12 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter and 16 of 21 overall in the game.
Fender said that his team was motivated to play well on Senior Night against one of the top teams in the area.
The Tigers (9-11) relied on balanced scoring from Tim Norris (12 points), Jim Zubick (10 points) and Ben Avnet (8 points) to stay with the Devils for most of the game.
Springfield had the game down to three points, 41-38, with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
McDonald went on a 15-5 run to end the third and start the fourth quarter, and the Tigers couldn’t recover.
“That’s the type of basketball that they play,” Fender said. “They just wear you down throughout the course of the game. They cause you to create a lot of turnovers and they make you play at a faster pace than we are comfortable of playing.”
Tayala said that playing a team like Springfield was more than enough motivation despite McDonald already wrapping up the Inter Tri-County League championship.
“We wanted to come here and show that we can compete with a bigger-type school,” Tayala said. “We just wanted to come out here and prove something.
“We don’t want to get our heads too big [by looking at the state rankings.] We just want to finish the season with a win Friday and then play well when the tournament starts.”
Tayala leads a group that features just six players, starters Nick and Justin Rota along with Bansberg and Zac Puntel and the only guy off the bench, Nick Accordino.
All six players have the same type of skills and defensive aggressiveness that has led to the success of the Devils.
“We work well as a team,” Tayala said. “We just have to keep it going for the rest of the season.”