McDonald, Kunkel roll past Southington

WARREN – McDonald’s Patrick Kunkel has no problem with the Blue Devils’ all-out press mentality – in fact he enjoys it.

Unfortunately for the Southington Wildcats, Kunkel and his teammates showed that press in all its glory during a 77-53 win in a Division IV sectional semifinal at Warren G. Harding High School.

Over the 32 minutes, the Blue Devils forced 27 Southington turnovers and turned them into 18 points.

“I really have fallen in love with (the press),” Kunkel said. “I’m a cross country and track guy. I guess that’s my forte. I’m the player that usually doesn’t score much, so that’s what I love to do – play defense.”

Despite saying he’s not an offensive player, Kunkel got things started early for McDonald (19-4).

The senior forward scored eight of the Blue Devils’ first 10 points, as McDonald jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game.

Overall, Kunkel totaled 16 points and crashed the offensive glass, grabbing five offensive rebounds in the game. He also recorded five steals.

“Early on, Patrick hit some jump shots, got out on the fast break, made his free throws,” McDonald coach Jeff Rasile said. “He’s a senior. He’s been through the ropes. He’s a kid who’s run in the cross country state championships for years, so this isn’t going to bother him much.

“That’s what we need from Patrick.”

The Wildcats (5-18) couldn’t recover from the slow start and struggled against the physical nature of McDonald’s defense. The team spent much of the second half down 30 points before Southington pulled it back down the stretch.

“You make mistakes, (McDonald) will make you pay,” Southington coach Mike Karr said. “We saw that early and often, and it’s tough to make up those mistakes. You have to play a perfect game to beat them, especially when you don’t have the horses to run with them.”

McDonald moves on to face John F. Kennedy in a sectional final at Warren G. Harding High School on Saturday, and although the team led from start to finish on Tuesday, Rasile and Kunkel both said the Blue Devils need to play better against Kennedy.

“There were some spots where we didn’t play our best defense,” Kunkel said. “We definitely need to come out a little stronger against JFK and give them all we got.”