Thursday, September 23, 2021

Blue Devils fall to NDCL

WILLOUGHBY—After upsetting Lake Ridge Academy in the semifinals of the 9th Annual Melanie Williams Memorial Tournament on Saturday, Independence’s luck ran out in Sunday’s championship game.

The Blue Devils struggled to find any offensive rhythm in a 52-28 loss to Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.

“You can make all the excuses in the world, three games in three days haven’t had a break, coming off of illnesses and injuries, but you’ve still got to box out and make layups and we didn’t,” said Independence coach Mike Marcinko. “We told them coming in, they’re a solid team. They may not have the athletes Lake Ridge Academy had, but they’re going to throw eight or nine solid high school basketball players at you that don’t make mistakes and play hard. That’s what it was. They’re a consistent steamroller and we couldn’t get anything to fire, period.”

The Lions made it difficult for Independence to get decent looks in the basket, especially in the early part of the first quarter when the Blue Devils tried to penetrate the lane but were denied.

NDCL jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never trailed in the game.

“If you don’t knock down a couple shots then it doesn’t loosen up and we didn’t,” Marcinko said of NDCL’s defense under the basket. “We couldn’t turn them over either. (Lexi Hammer) is a great high school point guard. She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. If she’s not giving it to you and the others aren’t giving it back to you so we can break out like we did (Saturday) then you can’t loosen them up.”

Hammer finished with a game-high 22 points for the Lions while Olivia DeJohn and Annie Carney pitched in with seven and six, respectively.

Riccela DiGeronimo scored a team-high 13 points for Independence while Riley Wilson also finished in double-figures with 10. Kaitlin Richards and Haylee Dmitruk both contributed with two and Hanah Walker scored one point.

“The experience is good for us,” Marcinko said of playing for a tournament championship early in the season. “The one thing is, if you look at the flip side of the brackets, we go down in the first game we probably win the next two and win by a ton and all these people get to play, but instead we took the harder path and win the first game and upset Lake Ridge Academy and have a chance to play for a tournament championship. That should make us better down the road than playing opponents that we can run around for 32 minutes and not really do much.”

The Blue Devils, who dropped to 2-2, travel to Richmond Heights on Wednesday.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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