Blue Devils historic season comes to an end in district final

STRUTHERS, OHIO (WYTV) – The fourth-seeded Western Reserve Blue Devils magical season came to an end Friday night with a 53-48 loss to the seventh-seeded East Canton Hornets. The Devils end their season with a 19-7 record.

Following an emotionally charged upset win over arch-rival and top-seeded McDonald Monday night, the Devils were playing for their first district championship since 1989. That was something that was not unnoticed by head coach Patsy Daltorio or his nine senior players.

“It’s been 29 years and there was only one other time before that,” Daltorio said. “From a program standpoint we told these kids, what these seniors have done. You know they didn’t walk out with gold, but the support we had in the community, and the buzz we had this past week has been unreal. It’s really a testament to what these guys have done the past four year for these seniors.”

“We all came together when it really counted,” guard Ryan Demsky remarked. “We just beat McDonald which hasn’t happened in thirteen years and haven’t been here in 29 years, it was a big thing for us. It was big in our school and our community was behind us. We didn’t go out the way we wanted to, but we got here and it was worth it.”

“This is the best and the farthest any team (has gone) I have ever played with,” guard Cole Dezee added. “I’ll remember everything, all the players, all the memories, all the ups and downs, I’m going to remember it all.”

“It was amazing,” senior forward Kade Hilles commented. “All of us made memories that we’ll never forget. We’ll be able to talk about it when we see each other at the grocery store or wherever. We’re going to go down as one of the best teams in Western Reserve history. After 29-years, it’s something special.”

The Devils started the game showing how emotionally excited they were as Demsky nailed three treys in his first three shots. Dezee added another three and the Devils quickly grabbed a 12-0 lead in the game. The Hornets would not hit a field goal until the 1:06 mark of the first quarter as the Devils held a 12-7 lead at the end of the frame.

“We talked about this game and knew it was going to be a game of runs,” Daltorio explained. “They have a lot of great shooters as do we. Out of the gate, we couldn’t miss. It got us out to a little bit of a lead and we were riding high, no doubt about that.”

But the Hornets took the momentum in the game in the second quarter as they began the frame with a 9-2 run, taking their first lead of the game at the 5:24 mark when Hornet’s lanky forward Damian Clark tossed in a bucket. They would close out the first half leading 28-21.

The Devils would not go away quietly as they made a run of their own to start the second half as they put together a 9-2 run to tie the game at 30 at the 3:17 mark of the third period. The Devils would re-take the lead with just 25-seconds remaining in the stanza when Jack Cappiabianca powered in for a basket to give the Devils a 37-36 advantage at the end of the quarter.

The two teams battled back and forth throughout the fourth quarter as the two squads exchanged the lead seven times in the period. The Hornets would take the lead for good with only 54-seconds remaining when forward Anthony Baad connected on two free throws to give his team a 49-48 lead.

The foul that led to those free throws was a costly fifth one to the Devils Jack Cappiabianca, taking away an inside presence for the Devils in the final minute of the game.

“It was huge,” Daltorio admitted. “Jack does so much for us, especially on the boards. We thought we had a little bit of an advantage there in getting to the offensive glass. With him being out a lot of the time that did hurt us. But that’s the game.”

The Hornets would connect on 7 of 8 foul shots in the final minute of the contest. Joe Knopp hit two shots from the stripe with just 1-second remaining that closed any hope for the Devils.

The Hornets were led by Mitch Mitchell who scored 15 points on the night. Damian Clark was the only other Hornet to record double figures with 10 points scored in the game. Anthony Baad led the Hornets in rebounds with 9 while Trey Mallom grabbed 5.

The Devils were led by Cole Dezee with 15 points while Demsky added 14 and Hilles had 11. Demsky recorded 5 rebounds while Cappiabiance and Hilles each grabbed 4.

East Canton, who improve to 19-7 on the season will play Mansfield St. Peter’s Tuesday night at the Canton Field House in a regional semi-final matchup.