IF YOU GO
Matchup: McDonald Blue Devils vs. Berlin Hiland Hawks
When: Today at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Canton Fieldhouse
By Jon Moffett
Forgive Jeff Rasile, Matthias Tayala and Nick and Justin Rota if they’re not doing cartwheels down the McDonald High hallways.
It’s not that they’re not excited about winning the school’s first-ever regional playoff game. It’s just that, well, they win all the time.
It’s been well-chronicled how successful the trio have been under Rasile. They’ve posted three undefeated seasons as varsity starters. The Rotas were on an undefeated junior varsity team as freshmen.
So they win. A lot.
But tonight’s test might be the toughest of their careers. The trio edged past a tough Richmond Heights team in the regional semifinal. They will play Berlin Hiland for the Division IV regional championship game tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Canton Fieldhouse.
Hiland’s win over Windham was much more decisive. The Bombers were duds, falling 79-43 to the Hawks. The Blue Devils scouted prior to their own game and know what they’re going up against.
Rasile said his team knows it has its work cut out for it. The opponents only get better and the games only get tougher from here on out.
“They’re an absolutely incredible basketball team,” Rasile said of the competition. “We’ve got our work cut out for us. But we had our work cut out for us [against Richmond Heights] too. The kids came through. I know we’ll bring our ‘A’ effort and we’ll just see what happens [tonight].”
The Hawks (24-1) will bring their “A” game too. With three players 6-foot-5 or taller, it will be a tough matchup for the primarily diminutive McDonald squad. Tayala is the tallest at 6-foot-3.
Tayala, who said the matchup against the 6-foot-6 Tommy Scales of Heights was the toughest of his career, said it will be a tall task, but it is one the Blue Devils (24-0) are ready for.
“That was our goal, [to win the regional semifinal game] coming in, but I don’t think we’re going to stop there,” he said. “I think we’re going to be alright.”
Justin Rota, who was the hero of the regional semifinal game with a last-second layup, said the senior class, which also includes starters Louie Ronghi and Kenny Ross as well as bench players Tony Ingalls and Jared Reckard, wants to move forward. They’ve already made school history. Now they want to be legends.
“A regional title would be great, but the state tournament is my dream,” he said. “So if we can go there, I don’t know what I would do, man. It just sounds unreal for McDonald basketball.”