Brian McDonaugh is no longer sick to his stomach, but he did a good job of making his opponent feel queasy on Friday night.
The Westminster forward junior has fully recovered from a stomach issue that he picked up on a mission to the Dominican Republic. Even healthy, he won’t fill up the stats sheet.
But it was his all-around hustle during a crucial sequence of the fourth quarter of the Class 1A Harvest Christian Regional championship game when McDonaugh did all the right things to help turn Westiminster’s fortunes around to spark a 45-42 victory over the host Lions.
“My role is just to play hard,” said McDonaugh, who finished with nine rebounds. “Whenever I get the ball near the bucket, I just want to finish strong.”
Conference rivals Westminster Christian and Harvest Christian staged a strong battle. With his team trailing since the first quarter, McDonaugh won a hard-fought offensive rebound and scored the go-ahead bucket for a 35-34 lead.
On the next possession, he drew a charging foul and then came right back down court to gain an assist when he kicked the ball out to Dillion Rejman for a three pointer that jump-started the Warriors’ 10-2 run.
Sam Carani did fill up the stat sheet for Westminster (17-12) with 23 points and added to the key run with a three-pointer and a free throw.
“Sam stepped it up for us,” Westminster coach Bruce Firchau said. “He does not shy away from big situations.”
Twice this past season, Harvest (15-14) had lost to Westminster by 12 and 16 points, but the Lions did not back down this time. Noah Fox made back-to-back three-pointers to pull Harvest to within 43-42 with 40 seconds left.
After a Westminster turnover, the Lions let the clock wind down before John Vislisel stepped to the free throw line with seven seconds left. The senior center had made nine consecutive free throws previously, but missed both opportunities.
“We got what we wanted,” Harvest coach Jeff Boldog said. “We had our best guy on the free throw line to win it. I would take that again in a heartbeat.”
Carani gave Westminster a safer cushion with two free throws, and Fox’s desperation heave at the buzzer hung on the left side of the rim before falling away. Vislisel finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Fox scored 12. Rejman scored 11 points.