Next: McDonald vs. Youngstown Christian or Wellsville at Struthers, Friday, 7 p.m.
By Jon Moffett
With the game out of hand and the clock running, Mike Mangine walked over to his substitutes at the scorer’s table.
The Lowellville High coach gave his incoming players a simple message of encouragement for a somewhat hopeless task.
“Get ready for next year,” he said calmly. “You’re the team now, boys.”
This is the time of year that McDonald High has a lot of opposing coaches conveying that message. The Blue Devils continued their district tournament domination with a 75-51 victory over the Rockets at the Struthers Fieldhouse on Monday.
The Blue Devils have been in the district final for the past eight seasons — all eight years of Jeff Rasile’s tenure with the school.
They’ve advanced to the regional semifinal twice.
And Rasile and Co. are hoping this year is the big third for their own Big Three.
Seniors Justin Rota, Nick Rota and Matthias Tayala took over as is customary.
Tayala led the way with 20 points and a pair of blocks. The Rotas combined for 25 points, with Justin netting 14. Fellow seniors Louie Ronghi added 16, including three 3-pointers, and Tony Ingalls added eight off the bench.
“Here’s three kids, who in three years playing varsity basketball in [regular season] are 60-0. And in football, they’re 20-2. They know how to win,” Rasile said of Tayala and the Rotas.
The Rotas, Rasile said, haven’t lost a regular-season basketball game since the first game of their eighth-grade season. And for their careers which began in sixth grade, Rasile said, the twins are about “120-something and four.”
But Tayala got into some early foul trouble, prompting the team’s other big man, Ingalls, into spot duty. Ingalls drained three shots and a pair of free throws, blocked a shot and brought down three rebounds.
Ronghi drilled his deep balls in each of the first three quarters and paced the Blue Devils (22-0), who got off to a sluggish start. The undefeated Division IV favorite led 12-8 after the first quarter.
The Rockets (13-9) opened in a 1-3-1 defense, which gave the Blue Devils fits. Both teams appeared to size the other up in the opening quarter. But the Blue Devils were able to turn things around with a 22-point second quarter that all but put the game out of reach.
The Rockets committed 14 first-half turnovers and 27 for the game. And leading scorer Anthony Alfano, who entered the game with a 18 points per game average, was able to score only six.
Mangine said his team was outsized and outmanned, but has never been “out-hearted” on the court.
“I told them they’re one of the one of the greatest group of kids I’ve had the pleasure of being with since they were 5 years old at the YMCA,” he said. “They all stayed clean, they’re all straight-A students, they all have other interests and they work their tails off on the floor.
“They [McDonald] have bigger bodies and more bodies,” he added. “We have as much heart and as much desire and dedication as anybody. But at the end, the bigger guy wins on this court.”
The Blue Devils will play the winner of tonight’s district semifinal between Youngstown Christian and Wellsville.