McDonald survives furious Springfield rally
By MIKE MCLAIN
When McDonald Blue Devils basketball coach Jeff Rasile isn’t pleased, he’s not shy about letting the players know how he feels.
For Blue Devils sophomore Zach Rasile, the post-game message doesn’t end when Jeff sends the players home. He undoubtedly gets to hear more on the drive home and after the back door is shut upon arrival.
Jeff, Zach’s father, was far from pleased after a 77-71 win over the Springfield Tigers in a Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference game Friday night. He’ll gladly take the win and praise the Tigers, but having almost squandered a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter didn’t sit well.
Zach, who made seven 3-point shots in scoring 32 points, was matter of fact about how his dad would take the close score.
“He gets a little fired up in the game,” Zach said. “He wants us to win. He wants us to do well. I think down that stretch a little bit he went a little crazy, but that’s all right.”
Jeff acts like a perfectionist when he coaches. He’s accustomed to talented teams every season, and he’s all about getting the most out of the players for each minute of each game. Conference championships are fine and the hardware makes a nice addition to the trophy case, but it’s district title or bust for the Devils.
“Whatever the conference is called now-a-days, it’s all fine and dandy,” Jeff said. “I don’t mean this arrogantly, but we’ve won enough. We want to win district championships. That’s the first thing we tell the kids. Now when we get to the next step, people say, ‘Well, you can’t get to state.’ That’s a whole other beast.
“You’re always building. This year it’s going to be a grind. Zach and Braedon [Poole] are going to do most of the scoring and the other guys are going to have to play their roles. I thought they did excellent for 26, 27 minutes.”
That they did in rolling to what appeared an easy win. The Devils (4-0 and 2-0 in the MVAC) led 27-13 after one period and 43-29 at halftime. Zach had 19 points, including three 3-pointers in the half, whole Poole added 10 of his 18.
McDonald steadily pulled away in the third quarter and took a 64-42 lead into the final eight minutes. The lead was increased to 68-64 when the Tigers (3-1 and 2-1) began to flourish in the up-tempo style favored by the Devils. With John Ritter scoring 10 of his team-high 22 points in the session, and Shane Eynon adding eight of his 21 points, Springfield scored at will on the inside in trimming the deficit to 74-67.
Josh Celli, who scored 15 points, ended an eight-point Tigers’ run, with a short fielder. Ritter followed with field goal and Drew Clark reduced the McDonald lead to 76-71 in the final minute.
Zach ended the scoring with one free throw.
“The kids never quit,” Tigers coach Steve French said. “We were down 11 to Western Reserve a couple games ago and came back late. We just have to figure some things out. Sometimes it takes a little longer than maybe it should.”
The Devils return to action tonight at Lake Center Christian in the Hoops with a Heart Classic. Like McDonald, Lake Center has its eyes set on a district title, which means the Devils will have to play better than they did in the fourth quarter.
“We started getting out of the way and let them shoot layups,” Jeff said. “We have a press breaker, but it didn’t look like it tonight. They were just running around doing their thing. No offense to Springfield. They’re not a pressing team.”
Evan Ohlin scored 10 points for the Tigers.