MCDONALD, Ohio (WKBN) – McDonald is the last local girls’ team from Ohio still alive in the quest for a coveted basketball state title.
For Blue Devils Head Coach Tony Matisi, reaching the state final four is an accomplishment 28 years in the making. He had to overcome plenty in the process this season.
“Basketball was my passion. I just love basketball. It’s been my whole life,” Matisi said.
But early on in McDonald’s dream season, Matisi was away from the sport he loves, for the first time in his 28 years of varsity coaching. He missed 12 of the Blue Devils’ games battling health issues.
“I know I had to get back,” he said. “There was nothing gonna stop me from getting back to these girls and to these coaches.”
His players used his illness as motivation, playing in his honor.
“We just really wanted to show him and play for him and know that we’re able to push ourselves and play for him and do that to the best of our ability,” said senior Molly Howard.
“So when he came back, we would be ready. So that when he came back, it wouldn’t be hard for him to jump right back in,” added senior Sophia Costantino. “So it would be right as he would want it to be. Us winning and charging into the postseason.”
That’s precisely what happened, with McDonald advancing to the program’s first appearance in the state final four since 1991. The Blue Devils are riding a current 14-game win streak.
“Every one of these kids out there would give everything for a state title — if it meant them not scoring, not playing,” Matisi said. “They’re all for each other. Chad, I’ve never been a part of anything like this.”
“Our whole team is so diverse,” Howard described. “But then, we all play such specific roles that really brings our team together and makes us as great as we can be.”
“We’re gonna bring it all out and we’re not gonna stop until we know that the game is over. The job is done,” Costantino explained.
But the Blue Devils’ work isn’t done just yet. They are now just two wins away from winning the first basketball state title in program history.
“If that would happen next Saturday, I would stand there and cry my eyes out like a baby,” Matisi admitted.
“Most basketball players when they’re like shooting in their driveway, 3-2-1 shooting the buzzer-beater,” Costantino said. “It’s like for a championship. This is the championship. Senior season. State championship. What you have wanted your whole basketball career. If that were to happen, I don’t know, I can’t even describe it.”
McDonald will face Waterford in the Division IV State Semifinals Thursday at 2 p.m. at the University of Dayton Arena.