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Bristol tops McDonald

Staff photo / Brian Yauger McDonald’s Casey Miller (2) and Bristol’s Zane Shafer battle for a rebound Friday night.

McDONALD — Riding a wave of momentum kickstarted by a dominant second quarter, the Bristol Panthers opened their season off on a high note with a 62-40 victory over McDonald.

A 16-12 Blue Devils advantage after the first quarter quickly evaporated as the Panthers settled down over the course of the second.

“We settled in a little bit. We just played a little spazzy (early on),” Bristol coach Craig Giesy said. “They made some shots and then they missed some shots after because I thought they got a little tired. We did a great job of defensive rebounding, and a poor job of offensive rebounding in the first half, but they did a really good job in the second half. The rebounding was better, but we obviously have to clean up turnovers and things.”

That second quarter was nearly all Bristol as the Panthers outscored McDonald 20-5 in the frame, giving the Panthers a 32-21 lead at the break.

The Panthers carried their second quarter success into the third, as Kaiden Kohler drained back-to-back 3-pointers in quick succession to start the second half.

Kohler led the way for Bristol, scoring a game-high 24 points. The junior made some early mistakes which caught the ire of Giesy, but Kohler buckled down and led the Panthers the rest of the way.

“He stretched that lead out and it gave us some room. I got at Kaiden in the first quarter after missing a loose ball and I think maybe in years past he would have pouted a little bit about that, but I thought he handled it like a true veteran and then played hard because of it. That’s a show of maturity for him.

“Honestly, that’s how we are as a team now. We’re just a much more mature team than we have been, and that’s one of the reasons why I think we’re going to get better.”

Before the season, Giesy mentioned they’d return to more of the trademark Bristol “Bedlam” defense that thrives off causing havoc.

The Panthers were able to do that on Friday, creating chaos all over the court by forcing the Blue Devils into bad passes or shots, then using their size advantage to recover the ball.

McDonald matched that energy in the first quarter as the game was back-and-forth down the court, but as they wore down, Bristol took over.

“We got tired there and we didn’t make shots. I bet you we shot 10% tonight, so that’s not going to ever translate into a win for us,” Blue Devils coach James Franceschelli said. “First quarter we’re up there leading 16-8 and then, like we just told these guys, next thing we know they go on a 55-16 run.

“Not good, but our guys played hard tonight and there’s a lot of positives that come from this. We’re young. We’ve got one senior and eight sophomores that play for us. It’s a learning experience, and I told these guys, the best thing about it is we get to get up to go and play again.”

That turnaround is quick as the Blue Devils take on Lordstown this afternoon at 3 p.m.

Bristol kicks off its league schedule Tuesday, playing host to Pymatuning Valley.

“We got a huge league game right off the get go,” Giesy said. “They have a lot of experience and they’re a good team and a good coach, so I’m excited to see how we respond. The home-opener with a big rival coming into town.”

Start time is set for 7 p.m.

byauger@tribtoday.com

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