McDonald gets past rival Mineral Ridge

McDONALD – Batman was in the house Friday night. So was Captain America.

There were also a few Supermans walking around the McDonald gymnasium as it was a superhero-theme night for the Blue Devil student section.

Yet with all these pseudo fighters for justice present, they did nothing to stop a rather blatant thief. In fact, they enjoyed his act.

Sophomore Jake Reckard finished with an uncanny 11 steals to go along with a team-high 17 points as McDonald held off archrival Mineral Ridge, 61-52, in a Division IV sectional final and the rubber match of their three-game series this season. The second-seeded Devils (20-3) will meet Lowellville in a district semifinal Tuesday in Struthers.

The 6-foot Reckard was surprised when informed of the extent of his thievery, which he admitted was easily a career high. Most pickpockets are calm and confident, but Reckard seemed almost uncomfortable when asked about becoming a leader on this team.

“I wouldn’t call myself a leader yet,” he said. “I try to be for the younger kids but the seniors do most of the leading. I follow them. I just try to push people to work hard. It was for the seniors tonight. That’s what we talked about.”

The Rams, who ended their season at 13-10, almost made Reckard’s performance nothing more than an afterthought. Ridge, which trailed by as many as 13 in the third quarter, opened the final frame with a 10-0 run to get within 49-48. The score was 53-52 with a little more than two minutes remaining before McDonald closed out the contest with an 8-0 run, seven of those points coming from junior Brad Woodley. Along with Anthony Pugh, Woodley and Reckard are the lone non-senior starters.

“Give those two guys from McDonald (Reckard and Woodley) credit,” said Rams’ coach Chris Kohl. “That was our philosophy all week. We were not going to let Matt Seitz beat us. We were not going to let (Ken) Greaver beat us, or Anthony Pugh. If Reckard and Woodley beat us, then so be it.”

It was. Woodley finished second to Reckard with 14 points.

Seitz, who averages 26 points per game, had half of his 12 points in an opening quarter which ended with the hosts in front 15-9. The lead was stretched to 31-24 by intermission as the Rams committed 16 of their 27 turnovers in the opening half.

Mineral Ridge came out of the locker room pounding the glass. The Rams out-rebounded McDonald 34-16 in the second half, including 17-4 on the offensive side.

“They came out on the first three possessions and had like five (offensive rebounds) and I’m wondering what’s going on out there,” said Blue Devil coach Jeff Rasile. “But the kids did do one thing well, down the stretch they had some guts and made some plays.”

Despite dominating the glass in the third quarter (15-5), the Rams actually lost ground on the scoreboard. A combination of poor shooting (6 of 18 in the period and just 22 of 65 in the game) and Reckard’s 10 points and three steals in the quarter allowed the Devils to push the lead to a baker’s dozen before settling for a 49-38 edge at quarter’s end.

“Jake (Reckard) is a unique kid,” Rasile said. “He’s a sophomore, played varsity last year as a freshman and is one of the better athletes we’ve had come through our system in years. The thing about Jake is that he’s so unselfish that we almost have to tell him to shoot. The two walks he had in the first half were because he didn’t want to shoot the ball. Shoot the ball Jake. He wants to give it to the seniors and let them do their thing, which is great but in that situation we needed him.”

Zac Hagy and Brandon Perkins would bring the Rams roaring back in the final quarter. The pair combined for all 14 Ridge points in the fourth, wit Perkins netting eight of those. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough. On at least four occasions in the final two minutes, Ridge saw shots roll around the rim and out.

Hagy led his four senior teammate starters with 17 points. Guard Jonathon Baker had an outstanding performance, finishing with 12 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Ryan Nutter added eight boards and five blocks in a losing effort.

“I’m so proud of them,” Kohl said of his five starting seniors. “When I came here last year all these seniors greeted me and I’m going to miss them so much. My heart hurts tonight because all those guys are graduating.”

Pugh finished with 12 points and four assists for the winners while Greaver had 12 rebounds and three blocks.