McDonald wins second straight district title


STRUTHERS, Ohio (WYTV) – For the second year in a row, the McDonald Blue Devils have won a district title as they knocked off the Southern Local Indians 96-43 Friday night at the Struthers Fieldhouse. The Devils used a swarming press defense and domination on the boards to dispose of the Indians.

“This is unbelievable,” senior forward Dylan Portolese said. “Every year at the beginning of the year this is the number one goal. League championship first then this. So to win this and get it in back-to-back years is amazing.”

“To win this is just a great accomplishment for the team, for the school, and for our town,” senior guard Evan Magill added. “It’s just a great feeling. You see all the love and support we have from our fans out here so it means a lot to this town.”

“This is our number one goal every single year to win districts,” Devils coach Jeff Rasile remarked. “We have been fortunate, I think this is our fifth one. Any time you win districts and get to cut down the net it’s fun for the kids.”

Despite the lop-sided score, the Indians came out strong as they lead 6-4 early in the contest before the Devils went on a 22-2 run to close the first quarter. Zach Rasile hit three trey’s late in the quarter to help the Devils surge ahead to a 26-8 lead at the end of the frame.

The Devils pressure defense would cause the Indians to turn the ball over 11 times in the first half and 24 times in the game. The Devils would also out rebound the Indians 41-22 in the game.

“Obviously we work on press stuff all the time particularly heading up here,” Indians coach Aaron Blatch explained. “But it’s hard to simulate what they do.”

“We jumped out on them and when you get going early and you get into the flow the press can be a killer,” Portolese said about the Devils defensive intensity. “We just kept the rhythm going, and you start to get layups and it just adds up.”

“People don’t realize how tiring the press actually is,” Magill added. “Even our players get tired, but coach does such a great job to get us in shape, but not to push us too hard. He pulls us back in so we don’t go overboard. The pounding over, over, and over again it gets tiring.”

The Indians would make a 9-2 run to start the second period helped in part by two three’s by Max Hart as the Indians cut the deficit down to 11-points at 28-17 with 6:36 remaining in the stanza. But at that point, the Devils exploded with a 13-2 run to pull out to a 22-point, 41-19 lead a little over halfway through the quarter. They would hold a 25-point, 48-23 advantage at intermission.

The Blue Devils continued to pull away from the Indians in the second half as they would go on an 11-3 run to start the half and led 70-32 at the end of the third quarter. Both teams substituted freely in the fourth quarter, giving both benches a chance to see some tournament action.

Portolese would lead the Devils with 25 points and 11 rebounds while Zach Rasile knocked down 23 points. Braedon Poole would also score in double digits with 16 on the night. Poole would lead the Devils on the boards with 13 rebounds.

“Dylan Portolese really hurt them tonight,” Rasile said. “Pure effort, that’s what we ask of Dylan. He did that on the offensive boards, defensive press, and he got some easy hoops because of it. He just had an outstanding game.”

“I’m a senior and I try to be a leader on the floor and in a game like this you have to keep going and give everything you have,” Portolese added. “I just tried to play as hard as I could tonight.”

The Indians, who close the season with a 9-17 record, were led by Dakota Wetzel with 12 points while Max Hart came off the bench to score 11. Both Jayce Sloan and Hart recorded 4 rebounds.

“I think with as young as we are, we think if nothing else we kind of established what this team can be moving forward,” Blatch remarked. “I think with this run we kind of view this season differently. So hopefully these guys are going to be motivated coming back to continue to get better and be more prepared for an environment like this next season.”

With the win, the Devils improve to 25-1 on the season and will now face the Warren JFK Eagles in a regional semifinal contest Tuesday night at the Canton Fieldhouse. It will be the second game of a doubleheader on the night with tip-off set for 8:00 pm.

“We have JFK. We’re a huge underdog but you know we are going to go and play hard and whatever happens, happens,” Rasile proclaimed. “I think it’s great for local fans. It’s great that we go down there and we have two local teams competing for a chance to go to the regional finals.”