McDonald routs Columbiana, ready for Wellsville

McDONALD – For a team that clinched at least a share the Inter Tri-County, Lower Tier title on Tuesday night, the McDonald Blue Devils had a rather lackluster approach to celebrating that feat.

After pummeling Columbiana 70-44 at home, the Blue Devils already started looking forward to their next goals, including the district tournament later this month.

“That’s the first step,” McDonald coach Jeff Rasile said. “We always set our goals on district championships. That’s the next step. We got to get healthy and play a little bit better basketball than what we did tonight, but we’ll take it.”

It’s not hard to imagine why McDonald (17-2, 12-1) wasn’t too excited from this game, considering the lack of competition from the Clippers (3-14, 3-9) for much of the game.

The Blue Devils scored the first eight points and went on a 15-3 run to start the game. The home team never relinquished the lead and for much of the game kept it over 20-points.

More importantly for Rasile and McDonald, the team didn’t miss a beat without senior Stephen Politano, who has missed the last three games due to mono. Politano averaged around 20 points per game for the Blue Devils.

Sophomore guard Anthony Pugh and junior forward Kenny Greaver stepped into the offensive void. Pugh drained four 3-pointers and all of his 14 points in the first half, while Greaver spread out his 15 points evenly over three-and-a-half quarters.

“Politano is our leader,” said junior Matt Seitz, who paced McDonald with 22 points. “It’s hard losing a 20-point scorer like him. I thought Pugh really stepped it up tonight, knocked down a lot of jump shots. Greaver stepped it up tonight… He made some big plays.”

Despite struggling early against McDonald’s full-court trap, Columbiana found some offense in the form of Jake De Jong.

The senior dropped 17 points on the Blue Devils, with 10 coming in the second half. He had a couple of baskets on the fastbreak once the Clippers started breaking down the press.

“The last couple of games he’s been kind of going through a rough spot, but in the second half played like the Jake De Jong that we know,” Columbiana coach Jason Baker said. “We’ve got some games coming up here that… we need him to play like that.”

With at least a share of the title in the bag, McDonald will look to clinch the ITCL, Lower Tier crown outright with a win on Friday at Wellsville.

The Blue Devils lead the Tigers by one game in the conference standings and have the upper hand mentally, beating the Wellsville earlier this season in McDonald. Rasile said that his players will have their hands full in Wellsville.

“Wellsville’s going to be a whole other animal Friday night at their place,” Rasile said. “It’s going to be a difficult game for us. A big challenge, but you know what – that’s what we play for. We play for those types of games, and we’ll see what happens.”

Seitz said the team needs to focus during practice the next two days in order to prepare for the Tigers.

“You’re going to Wellsville on Friday not to share the title but to win the title,” Seitz said. “It starts at practice. We got to bring the intensity to practice.”