MINERAL RIDGE - The wake-up call came just in time for the Mineral Ridge Rams.
Conversely, by the time the McDonald Blue Devils woke up it was too late to salvage a win.
After a shaky start, the Rams suddenly found their game at both ends of the court to take control in the second quarter. There was no letup in the second half as the Rams opened a 15-point lead and then held on for a 66-58 win in an Inter Tri-County League Division II game Tuesday.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Mineral Ridge’s Zac Hagy (11) goes to the basket after getting in front of McDonald’s Jake Reckard during second-quarter action on Tuesday night. Hagy finished with 24 points to lead Mineral Ridge.
"I feel like it was the jitters mainly," Rams senior Zac Hagy said of the slow start. "When you're out there playing your rival, you get those early jitters. They came out and hit a couple of shots, but in that second quarter we really turned it up mentally. That's pretty much all it is for us. If we can play mentally good, then we're a good team."
The Rams are 3-0 and 2-0 in the league. The Devils are 1-1 and 0-1 in the league.
McDonald struggled offensively, and it lost the rebounding battle by a decisive 58-33 margin. The Devils did manage a 16-11 lead late in the first period, but the Rams scored the final three points of the session as the momentum began to swing.
McDonald had a 22-18 lead in the second quarter. Ridge then scored 10 unanswered points to go to the locker room at halftime with a 28-22 lead.
"I think we lost the game in the middle of the first quarter," Devils coach Jeff Rasile said. "They basically controlled us from that point on. We had a chance to extend, extend, extend, but we took bad shots and didn't rebound.
"We base our program on working hard and diving for loose balls, and Mineral Ridge was the team that was working hard and diving for loose balls. The rebounding advantage was off the charts."
Part of the problem for the Devils was the presence of 6-foot-7 senior Ryan Nutter, who used his considerable size to grab 14 rebounds and block seven shots. Nutter was able to redirect numerous shots on drives by the Devils, who had to resort to perimeter shooting.
"Ryan does a fine job for us on the inside," Rams coach Chris Kohl said. "He went down last Friday with a bad ankle sprain, and we didn't know if he would play tonight. He got himself ready to play. Being there and seeing that 6-7 kid can disrupt a lot of shots. He has a knack for blocking shots. That's nice to have."
Hagy, who scored 24 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. He made 8-of-12 free throws, including 7-of-9 in the fourth quarter.
"There was a great atmosphere here today," Hagy said. "The student section showed up, which we didn't have the first two games. Beating McDonald is a great feeling."
The Rams extended their lead to 48-37 through three quarters and had a 57-42 lead in the fourth period when the Devils began chipping away. Matt Seitz, who led all scorers with 29 points, hit consecutive 3-point shots to trim the Rams' advantage to 60-54.
McDonald wasn't able to get closer as Hagy made four free throws and Corey Phillips scored on a drive to secure the win.
Kenny Greaver added 14 points to McDonald's scoring.
The Devils are at Lowellville Friday. The Rams host Wellsville Friday to top off a big week.
"If we want to have any shot at maybe winning the lower tier, these are two big games for us," Kohl said.