By Brian Dzenis
You would think a high school basketball player dunking eight times in a game would signal a blowout, but that wasn’t the case for Warren JFK’s Antonio McQueen.
The Eagles needed all those one-handed and two-handed slams to fend off McDonald, 72-60, in a Divison IV regional semifinal at Warren Harding High School.
McQueen said it was a personal best, but he was more proud of cutting the Blue Devils’ season scoring average by a third. McDonald (25-2) averages 90 points.
“I’ve seen them blow teams out of a gym and I’m just happy that we kept them to a point where there’s no blowout,” McQueen said. “They blow teams out by 40 all the time and they’re No. 1 in the state and we beat them.
“That confidence and momentum is going to build for our next game.”
All but two of McQueen’s 18 points came from dunking Wednesday night. Once the Eagles (20-7) got past the first two or three guys involved in the Blue Devils’ press, McQueen faced maybe one or even no defenders at the basket, giving the 6-foot-6 forward time to wind up and finish with authority.
“We don’t see much of that in our league. We don’t see that at all in our league,” McDonald coach Jeff Rasile said. “I’ve been at McDonald for 13 years and we haven’t had a kid that size or close to it.”
Byron Taylor led the Eagles with 21 points. Nate Woods added 17 and Justin Bofenkamp had 13. The Eagles closed out the third quarter on a 9-0 run to break the game open. McDonald never recovered.
“It all started with defense and the ball pressure we’ve been doing all year,” Woods said. “We get our runs off of turnovers.”
Ten of McDonald’s 15 turnovers came through the third and fourth quarters. Zach Rasile lead the Blue Devils with 18 points, but scored all but four in the first half. The freshman added to his Ohio single-season record for 3-pointers. The mark topped out at 140 as Rasile was 2 of 10 from beyond the arc.
“We had to locate [Zach] because he was killing us on the 3-point line and [Braedon Poole] because he can drive the ball really well — he took that advantage every time he could,” McQueen said.
Evan Magill scored 15 points before fouling out in the fourth quarter and Poole had 13. Wednesday’s game was just the second meeting between the schools and it drew a sold-out crowd.
“The feeling you get when you play a No. 1 team and you see on social media how tickets are sold out at both places,” McQueen said. “You come in off the bus and you see people walking away because they can’t get in.
“It’s a lot of people coming to support us and a lot of people not coming to support us. This game really impacted us.”
Warren JFK will play Lutheran East in the regional semifinal on Friday at the Canton Fieldhouse. Because the semifinal game was postponed Tuesday, Eagles coach Mark Komlanc had the chance to scout Lutheran East.
“Some people on the radio called us pansies for calling off the game and I was offended by that. Our job is to take care of these individual and do what we think is best,” Komlanc said.
“I don’t think we got an advantage from that. Lutheran East was here tonight, but we got to see them against a common opponent in Malvern, so we know where we stand with them and it could be a good game. We can play with them.”