By Tom Williams
Against one-loss Brookfield, the McDonald High boys basketball team could not have played much better than it did late in the third quarter, posting an 8-0 run to whittle the Warriors’ once comfortable lead down to nine points.
The Warriors responded with a surge of excellence, outscoring the Blue Devils 23-4 for Friday’s 72-44 victory at McDonald High.
Collin Harkulich scored 24 points and made six rebounds while Jeremy Quinlan contributed 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Warriors (6-1).
“We got tired at times, could have played a little better at times, but I could not be more pleased,” Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said.
Kovach said the Warriors anticipated the Blue Devils (8-1) sticking to the pressure defense they are known for under Jeff Rasile.
“We knew they would never quit doing what they do,” Kovach said. “And we handled the pressure — that was the key.
“They start out in man and then leave and go double,” Kovach said of the Blue Devils. “Somebody’s always open and if you can find that open guy and advance the ball and finish on your lay-ups, then you are in business.”
Rasile said the Warriors deserved the win.
“We got to a couple of loose balls, hustle plays,” said Rasile of the surge. “But the better team won the game.
“They killed us on the boards,” said Rasile, whose regular-season winning streak of 71 games was snapped. “They beat us to [most loose balls], which is something we should have pride in because that’s our style.”
Harkulich was on fire early on, scoring three baskets in the opening minutes as the Warriors raced to a 9-1 lead.
“It felt great — it was a hostile crowd,” Quinlan said.
Harkulich agreed on the environment.
“Definitely a big win,” Harkulich said. “The crowd was hyped but we came in, did our jobs, made our layups.”
Harkulich said the Warriors practiced “not dribbling a lot” to prepare for the Blue Devils’ pressure. “We were working on passing so they wouldn’t come from behind us and steal the ball.
“We moved the ball really well — that’s where practice helps,” Harkulich said.
With Brookfield ahead 16-5 after one quarter, the game turned into a track meet. Matt Seitz, Kenny Greaver and Christian Rusinowski each scored two baskets as the Blue Devils scored 18 points in the second quarter.
It wasn’t nearly enough as the Warriors, boosted by four more Harkulich baskets, padded their lead with 21 more points.
“Collin finished tonight, which was big for us,” Kovach said. “His effort was unbelievable and that’s what we need from him every game,” Kovach said.
Seitz and Rusinowski each scored 10 points to lead the Blue Devils.
Kovach said he feels his team is approaching mid-season form after getting a late start because of football success. Four of the starters — Harkulich, Quinlan, his twin Jimmy Quinlan and Ryan Mosora — played on Brookfield’s 12-1 football team that didn’t lose until the regional final.
“We were kind of out of basketball-shape [early],” Kovach said.