SEBRING - Twelve games into the season and the Sebring Trojans are finally moving in the right direction. Sebring followed up Tuesday's 51-43 win at Lowellville with a 50-45 victory over visiting McDonald on Friday. The win puts Sebring at .500 on the year with a 6-6 mark and improves the team to 4-5 in league play.
"We're learning how to prepare for games," Sebring coach Mark Baia said. "We practiced hard all week and this is a big win for us. First we came up with a big win at Lowellville and now McDonald."
The Blue Devils defeated the Trojans 53-34 on Dec. 16. On Friday, McDonald made Sebring earn every point, but couldn't complete a season sweep.
"I knew it was going to be tough to get a win," Baia added. "They beat us pretty bad at their place. I knew they would keep coming after us."
The Blue Devils took a 13-8 lead in the opening quarter after the Trojans committed turnovers on five-straight possessions. A total of six Sebring turnovers in the first period allowed McDonald to take the lead, but Sebring out-rebounded the Blue Devils 8-2 to keep the Trojan's deficit manageable.
"I think we were pressing too much in that first quarter," Baia said. "We wanted to make that one play to change the game. We just wanted it too bad. We were trying to make things happen instead of taking advantage of what the defense gave us."
Sebring shaved three points off of the McDonald lead by the half. The Trojans outscored the Blue Devils 10-7 in the second quarter and trailed just 20-18 at the end of two.
Sebring carried the momentum into the third quarter, where the Trojans outdid the Blue Devils 16-14. That put Sebring and McDonald even at 34 at the start of the fourth quarter.
"We really started to push the ball in the second half," Baia said. "We executed well and were in the right spots. We did a really good job of finding each other in the second half."
The lead would change hands several times throughout the final quarter with neither team able to gain more than a one-possession lead. The Trojans took the lead for good when they broke a 42-42 stalemate with a jumper by Jake Hubbs at 2:03.
The score would remain 44-42 until Hubbs dropped in a pair of free throws with 30 seconds left.
Josh Hartford, Dakota Wagner and Corey Baia each came up with key rebounds in between Hubbs' jumper and his free throws to keep Sebring in the lead. Wagner also had a big block and the Trojans pressured the Blue Devils into two crucial turnovers in those two minutes.
The Blue Devils didn't go away easily. Stephen Politaro hit a 3-pointer to pull McDoanld within one point of the Trojans with 14 seconds remaining, but a breakaway and layup by Baia gave Sebring back a three-point lead.
With just nine seconds left, the Blue Devils turned the ball over again. A foul by McDonald's Tyler Smith followed by a technical sent Baia and Hubbs to the line and sealed the deal.
"We're starting to do the right things," Baia said. "And we're starting to play as a team and we're winning as a team. There were guys on the bench who probably feel like they should have got more minutes tonight, but as the end of the game they were smiling because we won the game. That was nice to see. I think we're starting to understand what it takes to win games and we're doing it together."
Hubbs finished as the game's high-scorer. He dropped in five from the field and two from the line for 23 points. Baia added 13 points with four field goals and five free throws. Wagner added seven points and 12 rebounds.
McDonald was led by Matt Seitz's 14 points. Politaro chipped in 13. Smith scored eight.
The Trojans return to the court at home opposite Western Reserve.
MCDONALD: 13 7 14 11 - 45
SEBRING: 8 10 16 16 - 50
MCDONALD SCORING: Austin Pugh 1-0-2, Stephen Politaro 6-0-13, Christian Rosinowski 2-0-4, Matt Seitz 6-0-14, Austin Bucan 2-0-4, Tyler Smith 4-0-8. TEAM TOTALS: 21, 0-2, 45.
SEBRING SCORING: Corey Baia 4 5-7-13, Ian O'Ostroph 1-0-2, Mitch Baddeley 1-0-3, Jake Hubbs 10-2-23, Dakota Wagner 3-1-7, Joe Campbell 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 20, 8-16, 50.
THREE POINTERS: McDonald 3 (Seitz 2, Politaro), Sebring 2 (Baddeley, Hubbs).