McDonald steals one on the road to stay perfect

GIRARD — Girard gave McDonald all it could handle, but the Blue Devils are still undefeated.

Girard sophomore Austin Clausell scored a game-high 27 points Tuesday night, but McDonald made key plays down the stretch to hold on in a 77-72 thriller.

“We expected this to be a very difficult game,” McDonald coach Jeff Rasile said. “We pride ourselves on working hard and winning basketball games. At the end of the day, we just want to win.”

The Indians (5-7) started the third quarter on a tear. Clausell capped off a 7-0 run with a triple from the wing to give Girard a 41-34 lead.

With just under four minutes to play, sophomore Austin O’Hara gave the Indians their largest lead of the night, 45-37, following a layup and foul to get three points the old fashion way.

“Our two sophomore guards have really played well,” Girard coach Craig Hannon said. “He’s (Clausell) a good ball handler and stronger than he looks when he’s finishing at the rim, but he still has a long way to go to develop as a player.”

McDonald (11-0) was struggling offensively but found some life following a layup by senior Joey Ragazzine, cutting the Girard lead to 45-41 with just over two and a half minutes to play. The Blue Devils finished the quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 48-47 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Ragazzine scored a team-high 26 points.

Foul trouble plagued both teams late in the third quarter with junior Braedon Poole for McDonald and sophomore Mark Waid for Girard both picking up their fourth fouls with under two minutes to play in the quarter.

“Braedon has to be a little smarter,” Rasile said. “Some of his fouls are just silly at times. He’s the kid we need on the court especially when they’re going to take Zach (Rasile) out of the game like that.”

Zach Rasile, the Blue Devil’s freshman sharp shooter, was held to just four points, all coming from the charity stripe. Girard made sure their was someone in the freshman’s face the entire night.

“As an opposing basketball coach I would do the same thing,” coach Rasile said. “As his father, its vey difficult to watch when its being done to him every single game. It’s almost like he doesn’t even get to play.”

Ragazzine took over for McDonald in the fourth quarter with 10 points and going a crucial 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. After Clausell cut the Blue Devils’ lead to 64-60, Ragazzine responded with a layup to put McDonald back up six.

“He’s (Ragazzine) been scoring all year and we needed it tonight,” coach Rasile said.

Girard kept fighting though. Down 71-64, O’Hara was hit while shooting a 3 and knocked down all three free throws to cut the lead back to four with a little over a minute to play.

But Ragazzine and Rasile iced the game from the free-throw line, knocking down six straight in the final minute to stay unbeaten.