Hibbing coach Joel McDonald and his team will be doing a lot of traveling over the next few weeks as the Bluejackets play six of their last eight regular-season games on the road. So a day trip for McDonald to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester last week for a six-month check-up following surgery for bladder cancer was just a warmup.
McDonald’s prognosis has been good. He got the all-clear after his check-up and has been feeling good. The prognosis for his No. 6-3A Bluejackets has also been encouraging.
Led by 6-4 junior guard Ayden McDonald, the coach’s son, Hibbing (8-2) has fared well in its bridge season as an independent team. The Bluejackets, until this year, played in the Iron Range Conference and next season will be joining the Lake Superior Conference.
But no matter his team’s conference affiliation, Duluth East will always be on the schedule. At least as long as McDonald’s nephew, Rhett, is coaching the No. 9-4A Greyhounds, another independent team.
Thursday’s game at Hibbing will be the second meeting between the teams this season. Rhett McDonald and the Greyhounds won the first go-around, 73-61 in Duluth on Jan. 29. Ayden McDonald, who averages 20.2 points a game, was held to 15 in that matchup, and Joel McDonald expects Duluth East will make things equally hard on his son this time.
Noah Paulson, a 6-9 senior, leads the Greyhounds (9-2) with 19.2 points per game and had 24 in the first meeting. Mattie Thompson, a 6-8 senior, averages 15.3 points and scored 18 in the first meeting.