By Tim Cleveland
Upon building a 16-point lead early in the third quarter, it appeared the McDonald High boys basketball team was on its way to a comfortable victory over Girard in Friday’s season opener.
But the Indians came all the way back, taking a late fourth-quarter lead before McDonald made a late run to earn a hard-fought 84-75 victory.
Blue Devils coach Jeff Rasile said what his players lacked in experience, they made up for in size.
“We’ve got 12 kids in our program right now, JV and varsity,” Rasile said. “Every one of them dresses. [Girard’s] got four starters returning. They dressed 10 kids, varsity only. It’s that experience factor.
“I was a little worried about that,” Rasile said. “We knew we had size. We utilized that size and it was our game. Sometimes we got away from that and wanted to jack 3s.”
Girard coach Craig Hannon said he felt the Indians handled McDonald’s vaunted pressure defense pretty well.
“First half, not great; second half, much better,” Hannon said. “We executed pretty well in the second half and really got any look we wanted.
“We knew once we broke the first wave, we could get any shot we wanted and I really think that’s what happened,” Hannon said. “I don’t think they could press us for 32 minutes again. We broke it pretty well.”
After Girard took a 73-72 lead late in the fourth quarter, Matt Seitz scored to give the Blue Devils the lead for good. Anthony Pugh added a basket then a steal off an inbounds pass that led to two free throws and another foul shot that helped propel McDonald on a game-ending 12-2 run.
“It was all a team effort,” Pugh said. “We all worked hard in practice; our practices are all real turned up rather than any other time. Our conditioning level helped the comeback, not only with myself, with my entire team as well.”
Pugh scored 14 points, including going 7-of-8 from the foul line in the final quarter. He said his preparation served him well in converting in the late going.
“I’ve shot thousands of free throws in the gym prepping for tonight,” Pugh said. “We’re going to enjoy tonight, get back to work Monday morning.”
Seitz led all players with 31 points and Ken Greaver scored 24.
“I thought we brought the intensity right from the get-go,” Seitz said. Girard’s Dylan O’Hara and Evan Standohar paced the comeback. O’Hara led Girard with 20 points, while Standohar and Deonte Brown each had 13 and Jim Standohar scored 15.
“We’ve got a bunch of letterwinners returning from last year,” Hannon said. “I’ve got of ton of guys I have a lot of faith in. Those two really stepped it up tonight.”