Unbeaten no more

McDonald upends J-M to keep Blue Jays from taking MVAC crown

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Jackson-Milton’s Emily Williams, left, drives as McDonald’s Molly Howard, center, and Jackson-Milton’s Ashley Cameron trail the play during Monday’s game at McDonald High School. The Blue Devils won, 37-32.

McDONALD — In a low-scoring affair in Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference play, McDonald upset Jackson-Milton, 37-32.

Early in the game, Jackson-Milton (15-1, 11-1) got out to a 5-0 lead and seemed in control, but McDonald (12-4, 9-3) settled down defensively. The Blue Jays seemed a little off on offense.

“They (McDonald) played hard and better than what we did,” Jackson-Milton coach Pat Keney said. “Instead of playing to win the game, we played not to lose. My hat is off to McDonald. They have a young team and they played with a lot of heart.”

Jackson-Milton led 10-5 after one quarter, but the Blue Jays were struggling to pull away.

The second quarter went just about the same for both sides as the Blue Devils couldn’t get it going but continued to play good defense. JM’s Abby Spalding scored six of her eight points in the second quarter.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems McDonald’s Molly Howard guards Jackson-Milton’s Grace McDevitt during Monday’s game at McDonald. The Blue Devils won, 37-32.

Jackson-Milton led 18-11 at halftime.

“I told the girls to play composed,” McDonald coach Amy Dolsak said about halftime adjustments. “Let the nerves go and go out with confidence. Do what you are capable of doing. They wanted it real bad so that helped a lot.”

McDonald flipped a switch out of the locker room as the Blue Devils started the second half on a 6-0 run as Britney Smith hit two 3-pointers to get within a point.

The newfound energy caused Jackson-Milton to take a timeout with 4:26 in third as it was up, 20-19.

The Blue Jays took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter, 26-25.

McDonald continued to bring that energy in the fourth quarter. Molly Howard put up all nine of her points in the quarter to push the Blue Devils to victory.

“Against a team like that, every possession matters and it needs to have a purpose,” Dolsak said. “In the second half, we did a better job of not just settling. We executed and worked together better.”

McDonald grabbed one more rebound and had two more assist than Jackson-Milton, which did not clinch the MVAC title Monday due to the loss, in the win.

“They play really, really hard and really, really fast,” McDonald’s Abbie Matig said. “We knew that the key to this was composure. Coach told us over and over that composure was the key. We kept that in our heads and went with it as the game went on.”

Matig finished with five points including a huge free throw that put McDonald up five with about 30 seconds to go. She finished with seven rebounds and two assists to go with those five points.

Thursday, McDonald hosts Lowellville, while Jackson-Milton travels to rival Western Reserve.