Bristol, McDonald advance to districts

WARREN – Coach-speak went right out the Warren G. Harding High School window Saturday night.

You know the routine, a coach gets asked who he’d like to face in the next round of the playoffs and the reply is, “We don’t care. We’re just happy to be moving on.”

Not Craig Giesy.

The Bristol coach was posed the same question after his team dismantled Jackson-Milton, 72-29, in a Division IV sectional final.

“I want McDonald,” Giesy said. “Everybody has been talking about it a lot. Our kids hear a lot of ‘McDonald is better than you,’ so we’d like the chance to play them.”

They will. The Blue Devils built a 36-15 lead and withstood a furious John F. Kennedy comeback to edge the Eagles 61-54. Top-seeded Bristol will meet third-seeded McDonald Tuesday night.

“It’s going to be crazy,” said McDonald coach Jeff Rasile moments after reminding his team how much the Blue Devils wanted to play them. “We both do similar things. It’s going to be fun for the fans and not so much fun for Coach Giesy and I.”

The first half last night was fun for Rasile. The second? Not so much.

After a first quarter which ended with the teams deadlocked at 12-12, the Devils outscored JFK 24-3 in the second frame. Stephen Politano had three 3-pointers in the quarter which saw McDonald (20-4) make 10 of 18 field goals while the Eagles made just one of its 14 attempts.

But a different Kennedy team came out in the second half. Unfortunately for Rasile, so did a different McDonald team. The Devils shot just 21 percent in the final two quarters.

“I love these kids; they’re great kids,” Rasile said. “Unfortunately at times they can get a little mental. We come out in the second half on the first play and try to fire a 90 mile-per-hour pass. Then on the second possession we take a deep 3 from the corner that was not necessary.”

Kennedy (5-19) began the second half with a 9-0 run and cut its deficit to 46-33 by the end of the third quarter. Behind great play from senior point guard Dominic Naples, the Eagles kept crawling closer. Kennedy got within 52-50 after a Robert Seger free throw with 1 minute, 34 seconds remaining. Three times down the stretch Kennedy had the ball in a one-possession game but could not capitalize.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” said Kennedy coach Shawn Pompelia. “Our regular season and this game, this tournament, doesn’t describe their character. I love this team.

“The adjustments were obvious. We knew we had to get up on them, quit giving them space, and our bigs had to play physical. We did that in the second half.”

Junior Kenny Greaver paced the winners with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Politano finished with 16 points. Naples led the Eagles with 17 points, 11 boards and four assists and sophomore post A.J. Grant had 13 points before fouling out with 2:40 remaining.

Despite a subpar start, the Panthers (24-0) had a much easier time against an overmatched opponent. Bristol led just 14-7 after one quarter before pushing that out to 40-18 by intermission.

“I always tell them ‘you know how to play but you have to play’,” Giesy said. “I’m not looking into (the slow start) too much. I don’t think we came out with the fire and passion we needed to and Jackson-Milton did.”

Chad Oliver led the way for Bristol with 24 points and 14 rebounds. The Blue Jays (2-21) made just 10 of 40 field goals (no 3-pointers) and 9 of 17 from the line. Jackson-Milton turned the ball over 37 times including 13 in the second quarter.

“They’re a very talented team,” said J-M coach Gary Nagy. “Chad, he’s very good. No doubt about it. We followed our game plan for the first quarter but didn’t in the second, third and fourth. We’re very young. We won our league last year and this year we’re at the bottom.”

Brandon Lee added 12 points for the winners. Mike Assion paced the Blue Jays with seven points and Jeremy Fitzpatrick pulled down seven boards.