WELLSVILLE - Wellsville's 76-66 win over McDonald on Friday night ensured one thing; a tie for first place in the Inter-Tri-County League lower tier.
"That was big. I said we had to have that to get into the situation that we are in because we lost that game to Southern Local," Wellsville coach David Thompson said. "If we had that, we would've been set. But we have Columbiana and Western Reserve, so we can't let down just because we are in a tie."
Now as they sit even with the Blue Devils (18-3, 11-3) in the standings, the Tigers (15-3, 10-2) stand to capture their first league title since 2008 if they win out.
Wellsville’s Jordan Sloan looks to pass as McDonald’s Patrick Kunkel defends on Friday. The Tigers defeated the Devils 76-66 in a key ITCL lower tier game. (Photo by Patti Schaeffer)
The Tigers were buoyed in their bid to avenge an earlier loss to McDonald on the road by junior Seth Bradford's career-high 31 points, surpassing his previous high of 25.
"It feels good, especially against McDonald because they're such a good team," Bradford said. "I was just hot at the beginning and didn't want to let it go and Bug (Thompson) told me to keep shooting."
In all, four members of the Tigers reached double-digits. Nate Scott added 15 points, six rebounds and four assists while Antonio Fultz and Brendon Carr each chipped in 10 points.
MCDONALD: 15-24- 11- 16 - 66
WELLSVILLE: 25- 17- 14- 20 - 76
MCDONALD SCORING: Anthony Pugh 4-1-13, Christian Rusinowski 7-2-16, Jake Reckard 1-2-4, Patrick Kunkel 2-0-5, Zack Conley 1-0-2, Kenny Greader 4-0-8, Matt Seitz 7-1-18. TOTALS: 226, 6-11: 66
WELLSVILLE SCORING: Camden Douglas 1-1-3, Nate Scott 6-3-15, Antonio Fultz 5-0-10, Seth Bradford 13-2-31, Brendon Carr 5-0-10, Jordan Sloan 3-1-7. TOTALS: 33, 7-10: 76
Three-pointers: McDonald 8 (Pugh 4, Sietz 3, Kuakel), Wellsville 3 (Bradford).
Wellsville had no problem breaking McDonald's pressure as they ran out to a 17-8 lead in the first quarter.
What adjustments the Blue Devils made took little hold early on as Wellsville pushed their lead out to 23 points before McDonald woke up and made a surge of their own. The Blue Devils turned that deficit into just three points before the teams parted for the half.
"You know it was just hitting some shots. We were without one of our players a 20-point scorer and I kind of saw it on our kids faces before the game," McDonald coach Jeff Rasile. "But we were able to come back in the second quarter and hit some shots. In the end, it came down to who had more guts and they had more guts than us tonight."
McDonald was without its starting point guard Steven Politano who is sick with mono. His absence hurt the Devils, but Matt Seitz shouldered the scoring load for the night, finished with 18 points.
"Anytime you lose your point guard and a 20-point scorer, it's big," Rasile said. "But we can't make excuses, we still have enough to beat them but they are a great team."
McDonald and Wellsville's best tricks were reserved for the second half. The two ITCL heavyweights exchanged blows in the third quarter as the Tiger's lead shrunk to just one before ballooning to six before the quarter ended. Wellsville wanted to focus on defending McDonald's shooters in the second half as they moved away from a zone to man-to-man.
"We played smart in the first quarter we wanted to play a zone and stay out of foul trouble, which we did pretty much and then they started hitting those threes right before the half," Thompson said. "We went man-to-man and Cam (Camden Douglas) locked (Matt) Seitz down pretty well in the second half."
Douglas had been suffering of an illness of his own, battling flu-like symptoms. He finished the night with three points, but had more impact on the defensive end of the floor.
Wellsville held Mcdonald to 27 points in the second half.
"We came together and got at them early like we were trying to do We had a really good start the first quarter and we came out we were ready to go," Bradford said. "We just had to stick it out and maintain the lead we had and make sure that they didn't come back."
The Tigers, with goal now in sight, have a fine line to tread as the last part of the season wraps up. Wellsville still has two more league contests against Columbiana and Western Reserve.
"The kids have talked about it and ask when the last time we won and I told them 2008," Thompson said. "That's something they set out to do, win the league, and they took a big step towards accomplishing that tonight."
Wellsville won the jayvee game 60-36. Zach Fedyski paced the Blue Devils with 23 points while Devon Smith and Jantsen Stoakes each netted 10 points for the Tigers.
Wellsville will make up it's postponed game with Western Reserve next Friday. The match-up was cancelled because members of the Blue Devils were suffering from the flu.
At halftime, Sara Skinner was crowned as homecoming queen. Each member of the court is presented with a box containing a rose. The member of the court that receives the orange rose is crowned queen.