KIRTLAND—Independence used a third-quarter rally to down host Kirtland on Saturday, 54-52.
The loss snapped a five-game skid for the Blue Devils, who improved to 7-13 on the year.
“We really wanted to put some pressure on them and not let them run offensively and I thought we did a great job of that,” Independence coach Hugh McMahon said. “We also wanted to make sure we didn’t just give the ball to them. We had to make them work on the defensive end and I thought we did a great job of that. This is easily the best win this season but also in my six years at Independence. We’re young so it’s great to see them step up and their hard work pay off.”
Injuries to starters Connor Synek and Jamie McMahon left the Blue Devils shorthanded and much smaller in size.
That forced Coach McMahon to alter his game plan and despite some struggles over the past couple of weeks the Blue Devils rose to the challenge and knocked off one of the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division’s top teams.
“We’ve really had to adjust in the middle of the season,” Coach McMahon said. “We lost a couple of our big guys so that made us have to retool, which took a couple of weeks and a little bit of pain. Our practices have been phenomenal the last couple of weeks and we’ve been coming on on the defensive end.”
Kirtland led 24-19 at halftime and increased that lead to 30-23 early in the third quarter.
The Blue Devils regrouped and closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 40-36 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
“They got ahead of us a little bit in the third quarter and we didn’t break,” McMahon said. “That has happened a couple times during the year and we just believed in what we were doing. We defended and got a couple of turnovers and executed a little bit of offense. I was really impressed with our third quarter and our ability to stay in each possession in the game to fight it out until the end.”
Despite four lead changes in the fourth, the Blue Devils held on for the win.
Kyle Zygmunt led the Blue Devils with a game-high 15 points and Wyatt Flynn added 14 in the win.
“They did a good job of handling pressure and they offset some of the things that we wanted to get accomplished and they got it done,” Kirtland coach Shawn McGregor said. “All the kudos to them. Hugh is a great coach over there at Independence and I respect him quite a bit. He came up with a great plan and they played well.”
Domenic Capretta scored a team-high 14 points for the Hornets, who dropped to 13-7 with a second straight loss.
“We’re at a point right now where you have an option of finish the season off strong and come back with a new attitude and ready to go on Monday or you choose to finish out the season the way that we are,” McGregor said. “I think they’re a good group of seniors that want to finish things the right way. I think we’ll have the right attitude on Monday and we’ll play big against Chagrin.”
Independence 54, Kirtland 52
Independence (7-11): Mitrisin 3, Ceculski 2, J. Mitrisin 5, Blum 6, Miklovic 7, Richards 2, Flynn 14, Zygmunt 15
Kirtland (13-7): Capretta 14, Mueller 7, Cosgrove 9, Bottesch 1, Camino 3, McGill 6, DeMarco 4, Bailey 5
Independence 9 10 21 14 — 54
Kirtland 10 14 12 16 — 52
3-pointers: Independence 5 (Zigmont 3, Blum 2), Kirtland 3 (Capretta 2, Camino)