Blue Devils out of their game
By Steve WILAJ
Going into Friday night’s Division IV district final matchup with Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas, Jeff Rasile and his McDonald High coaching staff did its homework.
They scouted the Knights, talked to other coaches and ultimately figured the Blue Devils needed to keep the game in the 40s to have a chance.
“We’re not fools,” Rasile said. “We knew we couldn’t press them. We knew our traps in the half court weren’t gonna work, so we tried to do a few things.
“If it became a track meet, the game was over.”
McDonald did its part in reaching its desired point total, but unfortunately for the Blue Devils, it was, indeed, a track meet for Aquinas.
Pedal to the medal from the start, the Knights knocked-down 16 3-pointers in defeating McDonald, 90-48, at the Struthers Fieldhouse.
“We come out — it’s 15-2 — and they run us the rest of the game,” Rasile said. “The better team won. What can you do?”
The Blue Devils (21-4) couldn’t do much of anything from the outset, committing 13 of their 26 turnovers in the first half. Also in falling behind 28-12 after the first quarter, McDonald’s three-man, two-zone defensive strategy proved ineffective.
“We ran it before and had some success, but they moved the ball really well,” Rasile said. “They have three guys they like to get the ball to – [Anthony Moeglin], [Jacob Paul] and [Austin Hill]. We tried to take them out, but [Moeglin] killed us from the get-go.”
Moeglin poured in 24 points on 12-of-17 shooting. He also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
“We actually didn’t beat their defense in the half court. We beat it in transition without letting them set up,” Moeglin said. “We pushed the lead up and when you’re down 12 or 13 points, you can’t sit in the zone.
“So they had to come out of it and man up and that’s when we really pushed it open.”
Rasile said McDonald’s inability to execute its defensive game plan was the “biggest disappointment” of the game.
“The minute we had to come out of our defense, it was over,” he said. “We told them exactly what to do in our defense and in the first three minutes, we did none of it.”
The Knights (15-11) led 45-25 at halftime and then put the game away with a 26-9 third quarter. Austin Hill led Aquinas with 25 points, Daniel Piero scored 16 and Pete Ruthe added 11.
In all, the Knights shot 46 percent (36 of 78), including 16 of 40 from beyond the arc. Hill connected on six of 13 shots from long distance. The Knights also outrebounded McDonald 35-28.
“We wanted to ramp the pressure up right from the beginning,” Aquinas coach Matt Hackenberg said. “Our style is to go after teams and if they don’t have ballhandlers, it leads to some high turnover totals. So it worked out well here tonight.”
The Blue Devils attempted just 39 shot, connecting on 17. Matt Seitz led McDonald with 19 points, while Kenny Greaver added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“The thing we can take out of this is the intensity you gotta play with,” Rasile said. “Some of our old teams, I would’ve liked to see them out here. I don’t know win or lose, but it would have been physical and in-your-face.
“These guys haven’t bought into that defensive philosophy for two years and it’s a shame. But it is what it is and I’m proud of the kids. Nothing to be ashamed of.”