ITCL Night belongs to McDonald, Lowellville
By john bassetti
McDonald (21-0) plays Lowellville for a third time on Monday in a district semifinal after the top-seed Blue Devils defeated Lisbon, 71-29, in sectional championship Friday night at Struthers High.
Lowellville earned the spot by coming from behind to knock off Sebring, 50-45.
During the regular season, Sebring lost at Lowellville, but the Trojans returned the favor on their court.
Lowellville and Sebring traded leads until Mike Matisi’s layup gave the Rockets a 29-28 lead to end the third quarter.
Anthony Alfano had 18 points, Dean Donatelli 12 and Matisi 11 for Lowellville (13-8), while Aaron VanKirk’s 20 led Sebring (15-7).
The second-half guard play of Matisi, Alfano and Mike Mangine was key for Lowellville.
“We needed to spread the court because we felt that our guards were quicker up front,” coach Lowellville coach Mike Mangine said of the second half. “If we spread the court and let our guards do their thing: penetrate, dish it off or just take shots — that made the difference because it created a lot of energy.”
Defensively, Mangine said that his Rockets had to put more pressure on Sebring’s guards.
“We felt that we could make some turnovers, so, the combination [spreading the guards, being patient, taking drives when advisable and causing turnovers] made the difference.”
An offensive style change from a low-post oriented to open floor, ultimately, played a part in Sebring’s loss, first-year coach Steve Beshara said.
“The fact that we weren’t quite sure what our offensive identity ultimately was in the first year of the system may have been our biggest struggle tonight.”
“We talk about holding teams to 45 or less — Lowellville got 50, while we’ve been averaging about 56. I’d like to think that, without some of that confusion, we could get 55 in a game like this.”
Beshara also said that Lowellville did a good job jamming Sebring after the Trojans got defensive rebounds.
“They’re sitting and digging for the rebounds, so they’re putting pressure on the rebounder and then they’re leveling off our outlets. That’s when I thought we could have looked around and maybe reversed the ball and continued to press in transition.
“Once we didn’t have that side outlet, we settled to walk the ball up the floor. Part of that’s on us because we weren’t as aggressive as we need to be in transition offense.”
Seamus Johnson added 12 points for Sebring.
Matthias Tayala had 11 points and Louie Ronghi and Nick Rota 10 apiece for McDonald.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy, but our kids came out and started the way we wanted them to,” McDonald coach Jeff Rasile said. “We wanted to get on them early and get a comfortable lead.”
If playing against McDonald, Rasile said he would have done exactly what Lisbon did: used a 2-3 zone.
“They played a 2-3 zone, but we were able to make some jump shots early and that changes the game.”
Of playing Lowellville again, Rasie said: “It’s kind of a rivalry, so we’re going to have to play our best basketball to advance.”
Matt Metzgar’s nine points led Lisbon.
“The style McDonald plays you can’t recreate in practice. We went 8-on-5 and 9-on-5, but when you get in front of a crowd in that situation, you can’t recreate that,” Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said.