McDonald rebounds with win over WB

BELOIT — The McDonald Blue Devils had a lot to prove Monday night. Coming off a heartbreaking loss to Western Reserve and facing Division II powerhouse West Branch, the Blue Devils proved to themselves — and likely others — they are a team to be reckoned with.

The Blue Devils walked out of the West Branch gymnasium with a flood of momentum as they knocked off the Warriors, 50-43. The victory improved the Blue Devils to 19-2 on the season.

“It means a lot to us because it gave us an opportunity to prove ourselves against a lot better team, and we came out here and did it,” junior forward Sophia Costantino said. “It gives us a lot of momentum going into the tournament, propelling us forward so we can prepare for that, hopefully, district championship, which is what we have been working for this whole season.”

“A big confidence booster,” McDonald coach Amy Dolsak said about the win. “We had a tough loss to Western Reserve last week and we’re heading into tournaments soon, and for us to be able to play against good competition like West Branch, a well-coached and hardworking team, this is a really big win for us.”

West Branch coach Walt DeShields was disappointed.

“The big thing I feel was that McDonald was hungrier than us tonight,” he said. “That shouldn’t happen. I’m not sure if our girls knew how good they were, or basically how big of a game this was this late in the season.”

The game began with the Warriors looking like they were going to make quick work of the Devils as they jumped out to an 8-0 lead before Lucy Wolford sank a 3-pointer at the 4:50 mark to make it 8-3. That was the beginning of an 11-0 run for the Devils as they held an 11-8 edge at the end of the first quarter.

The two teams battled back-and-forth in the second period as the Warriors briefly held a 13-12 lead at the 5:46 mark following a basket by Peyton Alazaus. But the Devils regained the lead and held a 22-21 advantage at intermission.

The third quarter proved to be the difference in the game as McDonald outscored the Warriors 15-6 in the period. Three consecutive baskets by Maddy Howard, Molly Howard, and Taylor Tuchek at the end of the frame gave them a 10-point, 37-27 lead at the close of the quarter.

“We got beat in the third quarter,” Deshields said. “We were down one in a pretty even first half, but that third quarter they just did everything to get the rebounds, loose balls and make the extra pass and we weren’t.”

Following a 3-pointer by Lucy Wolford and a basket by Molly Howard early in the fourth quarter, the Devils enjoyed their largest lead of the night as they built a 14-point, 42-28 advantage. But to the Warriors’ credit, they fought back as they went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to 42-37 midway through the period.

But with Molly Howard converting 4 of 5 free throws, and a basket and key rebounds by Costantino the Devils were able to block the Warriors from completing a full comeback.

Dolsak explained the keys to the Devils’ big win.

“I thought we played great defense for the most part and locked down on their shooters,” she said. “Offensively, I thought we did a great job of executing in the half-court offense. It got us some good open looks and we played good team basketball.”

The loss drops the Warriors to 18-3 on the season with one more contest remaining on the schedule.

“Sometimes late in a season, a game like this can make or break you. We’re hoping as a staff that this game will make us. We’re using this game to look at ourselves in the mirror and say ‘Did you give everything you had for 32 minutes?’ Tournaments, if you do that, it’s going to be a quick out,” DeShields said.

The Blue Devils will complete the regular season Wednesday night when they travel to Crestview. The Warriors will try to bounce back Thursday night when they host league rival Marlington in their season finale.