The McDonald girls basketball team battled back from an eight-point deficit in Wednesday’s fourth quarter to defeat Warren JFK, 53-52, to advance to Saturday’s Division IV district final at Mineral Ridge High School.
The Blue Devils trailed 50-42 with 4:40 remaining.
“I told them not to give up. There was still plenty of time left on the clock and we knew we could make a comeback if we worked hard,” McDonald head coach Amy Dolsak said.
Sam Homa agreed.
“We just needed to compose ourselves and work as a team to finish it,” Homa said. “We really wanted it and I think that showed.”
With 3:36 on the clock, McDonald went on a 10-0 run.
Britney Smith started the streak by draining a shot from behind the line and Homa added another bucket off an inbounds pass.
Olivia Perry picked up a steal with 2:17 left and Smith buried another 3-pointer to tie the game up 50-50.
“Olivia is a competitor and she wants to win. She got after it,” Dolsak said.
“My coach tells me all the time to be aggressive,” Perry said. “If the steal is there, go get it. If it’s not, stay back. But just try and aim for the steals because it could be easy points.”
The sophomore scored 17 points for the Blue Devils.
The Eagles had the chance to take back the lead, but a double dribble and a missed layup hurt.
“I think they got a little jittery, little antsy,” Warren JFK head coach John Condoleon said. “We didn’t protect the ball when we should have.”
The Blue Devils took a two-point lead on another basket from Homa.
Taejah Burney responded with a bucket for the Eagles to tie the game, 52-52, with 16.2 seconds to go.
But Danielle Bradley was called for a foul during an inbounds play which sent Homa to the line. She hit one to give McDonald the winning point.
“She didn’t want to see her season come to an end,” Dolsak said. “So she had ice in her veins and she knocked it down for us.
“It was amazing,” Homa said who led the Blue Devils with 21 points. “I knew as soon as I made it everything was just falling into place.”
Warren JFK’s Antonella LaMonica was sent to the line with 3.8 seconds left. The senior missed both foul shots.
The Eagles were down 53-52 and forced to foul, which sent Hannah Donkens to the line for the one-and-one with .8 seconds on the clock. She missed the first and time expired.
Dolsak was more than satisfied with her team’s performance.
“I was proud of our effort and that we didn’t give up and we kept fighting,” she said.
The game was a back-and-forth battle. The Blue Devils led 30-25 after the first quarter and the Eagles took a 39-36 lead going into halftime.
It all came down to the fourth quarter as the game was tied 50-50 heading into the final eight minutes.
“Basketball is a back-and-forth kind of game,” Dolsak said. “You expect your team to go on runs and you expect their team to go on runs, too. It’s just about who makes that last run and finishes.”
The Eagles started the game off strong against the Blue Devils’ zone defense. They hit eight 3-pointers in the first half.
“They had a couple of girls step up that we weren’t expected to knock down their shots from outside, so that hurt us early on. But we were able to stick with it and contain them for the most part,” Dolsak said.
LaMonica led JFK with 16 points and Taejah Burney added 10.
“We relied on the three a little too much in the first half. We weren’t going to the basket. We weren’t drawing fouls. We settled,” Condoleon said. “We had open looks.
“We hit a lot of them, but it wasn’t what we drew up,” Condoleon said.