Warriors hand McDonald first loss

McDONALD – It was 50 days last night since the Brookfield Warriors finished a three-week run into the Division IV football playoffs.

That’s a long enough period of time to shake off the football mentality and settle into a basketball state of mind for the athletes that play both sports. It’s also enough time for opponents to begin realizing how talented the Warriors can be when everything is clicking.

The McDonald Blue Devils discovered that fact the hard way Friday. The Warriors took control early with an 11-point lead through one quarter and went on to win, 72-44, before a packed gymnasium.

“I think we were kind of out of basketball shape earlier with the four football players,” Warriors coach Bill Kovach said. “I think we are in shape now. Hopefully, we can find a few more scorers. We have some younger players that have really been coming up – Derrick Dickson, Seth Wallace and Jamar Tarver. We’re rounding into a complete team.”

The Warriors (6-1) took what the Blue Devils do best – full-court pressure – and consistently moved the ball upcourt for easy layups. When Brookfield missed a shot, either Collin Harkulich or Jeremy Quinlan was in position to grab the rebound and put it back in.

Harkulich scored a game-high 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Quinlan scored 21 points and had 13 rebounds.

“In practice we worked on that all week,” Harkulich said of beating the press. “We stressed not dribbling a lot and working on passing so they don’t come from behind us and steal the ball. We moved the ball really well.”

Quinlan and Harkulich were contributors to the Warriors’ 12-1 football season that ended in the Region 13 final. Quinlan played quarterback and defensive back, and Harkulich was a receiver/defensive back. Both now look comfortable in their basketball skin.

“Collin finished tonight, which was big for us,” Kovach said. “His effort was unbelievable, and that’s what we need from him every game. We actually need another scorer, and fortunately tonight he was on the end of a lot of layups.”

The Blue Devils (8-1) were out of sync most of the game, trailing 37-23 at halftime and 53-42 through three quarters. They made a mini-run late in the third period, reducing a 17-point deficit to nine, but the Warriors scored the first 13 points of the final quarter and limited the Blue Devils to two points in the session.

“I saw it coming for the last two weeks,” Blue Devils coach Jeff Rasile said. “We have great kids. They come to practice, and they’re just going through the motions. This is no disrespect to the previous teams we beat, but it’s one thing when you beat those teams and go through the motions. It’s another thing when you play a team like Brookfield that has the size and strength and athletes.

“I’ve been on these guys pretty hard this week about that, but the message didn’t get through. Sometimes you have to face adversity to get the message. Hopefully, they got the message after tonight. Clearly the better team won tonight.”

The loss snapped what had been a 71-game home winning streak for Rasile, who took off last season to recharge his batteries. For the Warriors, the win proved they can win in a hostile environment.

“It felt great,” Quinlan said. “It was a hostile crowd. We just needed to get it to the open guy and get someone in the middle and get in downcourt and run our offense and score buckets.”

Matt Seitz and Christian Rusinowski both scored 10 points for McDonald.

McDonald is at Columbiana Tuesday. Brookfield entertains Newton Falls the same night.