By Ryan Buck
With his team locked in a tie at 79 with Inter Tri-County League visitor Wellsville Friday night, McDonald boys basketball coach Jeff Rasile didn’t have much time to assemble the perfect play during a short timeout late in the fourth quarter.
Wellsville junior forward Nate Scott had just knocked down a fall-away 3-pointer with a hand in his face to tie the game with 16 seconds remaining, setting off a chaotic scene in the McDonald High Gymnasium.
Hoping to pull out an emotional back-and-forth contest that featured five second-half lead changes and a break-neck pace, Rasile obviously wanted his team to have a good look at the basket for a go-ahead shot.
“The one thing I said in the timeout is we want to get that ball to the rim,” Rasile said. “I didn’t want a jump shot.”
His call may not have been executed perfectly, but it got the ball to the hot hand and it was effective.
McDonald quickly pushed the ball upcourt from its own baseline. Senior guard Stephen Politano cut across the Wellsville 3-point arc and found teammate Matt Seitz down-low with a lightning-quick chest pass.
“Politano threw it down too far, but Seitz got the ball,” Rasile said. “We wanted to get Seitz higher on the elbow, let him extend it and drive to the hoop, but it still worked.”
Seitz cut to his right and fought off Wellsville’s Brendon Carr, who had a chance to block the layup attempt with lock-down, man-to-man defense, as instructed by Wellsville coach David “Bug” Thompson.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Seitz said of the Blue Devils’ final possession. “I had a feeling I was getting the ball.”
The 6-foot-3 junior adjusted in mid-air, then laid the ball off the glass for an 81-79 lead with 10 seconds left.
“It was me and the rim, one kid in front of me,” said Seitz, who led McDonald with 23 points. “Thank God I made it.”
Scott dashed upcourt and launched a 3-point attempt with five seconds left, but it glanced off the side of the backboard, ending a terrific performance on a sour note.
“We had time. We rushed down,” Thompson said. “Five seconds is a lot of time. He was trying to get one up.”
Scott poured in a game-high 28 points, including two of his four 3-pointers in the final minute.
“Those were big-time shots and Nate’s a 3-point shooter,” Thompson said. “That’s what he does.”
McDonald had trailed for most of the contest before taking its first lead of the night with less than three minutes left in the third quarter.
The Tigers pushed the tempo in the first half, seamlessly moving the ball in the open court, which led to open fast-break lay-ups en route to a four-point lead at the half.
One caveat remained: the Blue Devils also thrive going up-and-down. Friday night, they did it just a little better in the second half.
“Ultimately what it came down to is that we just made some plays that we had to make,” Rasile said. “Unfortunately (for Wellsville), they didn’t get the loose balls and we got to the loose balls. [It was] a great high school basketball game.”