McDonald’s comeback falls just short
McDonald Wyndham secondary hed
By Joe Scalzo
There were four minutes left in Friday’s Division IV district final, McDonald senior Christian Rusinowski (the team’s best player to that point) had just fouled out and as he walked back toward the bench, he crouched down, slapped the floor with both hands and put his jersey over his mouth.
A few feet away, Blue Devils coach Jeff Rasile pulled an official aside and said, “Are you sure about that one, ref?”
McDonald was down eight points to Windham and that moment summed up everything the Blue Devils were feeling: frustration, sadness and — more than anything else — disbelief.
“They [Windham] basically controlled, what, 28 minutes of the game?” Rasile said. “Then we came out and played the last four minutes the way we wanted to play the whole game.”
And it was almost enough.
Stephen Politano scored 11 points in the final four minutes and the Blue Devils got the deficit down to two in the closing seconds but couldn’t get any closer, falling 87-81 at Warren Harding High.
“We knew they were a great team and we knew they’d make a second half run,” said Windham senior Matt Knight. “But I didn’t expect them to come back from 15 points down to within two.”
Politano drilled a 3-pointer with just over 30 seconds left to cut the deficit to 83-81 and McDonald junior Kenny Greaver got a steal on the other end, giving the Blue Devils a chance to tie. But Windham sophomore Parker Rickey stole it back, then drove the length of the court for a layup that made it a two-possession game.
“As a coach you’re going ‘Whoa,’ ” Windham coach Marty Hill said of Rickey’s layup. “But we talked about how, when we have one guy back, we want to attack them.”
Politano then missed an open 3 and Knight sealed the win with two free throws with 6.5 seconds left.
Knight scored 25 points with eight rebounds for Windham, which led 74-59 with five minutes left. Rickey had 24 points, eight rebounds and five steals and Cameron Pozsgai had 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
“These kids had a lot to prove when we came here,” said Hill, whose team won its third straight district crown. “We went undefeated in our league [the Portage Trail Conference] and didn’t get much recognition. [Top-seeded] Bristol got a lot of recognition and deservedly so, but we thought we had a good season and a good team.
“I said, ‘This is the place you can prove it.’ ”
Politano, who returned to the lineup two weeks ago after missing three weeks with mono, scored 20 points with seven rebounds and five assists for McDonald (21-5), while Rusinowski had 23 points and seven rebounds and Matt Seitz had 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“We were talking as a coaching staff and said this is probably the hardest run we’ve had to make to get to a district final,” said Rasile, whose team beat Southington, Warren JFK and Bristol. “I saw it after the Bristol game, looking at the kids in the locker room. I said, ‘Aw, we’re in big trouble.’ They were just done. Emotionally spent and physically spent.
“I give them credit for finding a way in the last 3-4 minutes to get back into the game because they didn’t really have it physically.”
It was the eighth district title in 10 years for Windham (24-2), which will meet Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph in Tuesday’s regional semifinal at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.