Friday, February 23, 2024

Fourth quarter rally at Hawken keeps Kirtland in first place tie

Never count out the Kirtland Hornets.

That’s what Nick Gallo learned through watching many of his basketball players lead the Hornets to a football championship in December.

On Friday, he watched many of those same student athletes make clutch plays down the stretch to lead the Hornets to a 60-55 comeback win at Hawken that kept Kirtland in a tie with Berkshire for first place in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division.

“This team just shows so much resolve, even in our losses,” Gallo said. “There just is no give up in these guys. It’s indicative of what they accomplished in the fall with the state championship in football. We have a lot of football guys and when they need to make a play they make a play. I’m really proud of the entire group. It was awesome.”

Senior Owen Lewis quarterbacked the football team to that state title and now he’s playing a big role for the Kirtland basketball team.

“We were down the whole game and losing by (five) going into the fourth and then played very well,” Lewis said. “We stepped our competitive level way up and kept getting big stops on defense.”

Kirtland’s troubles began in the first quarter when standout senior Evan Madden picked up his second foul.

That kept him on the bench for the entire second quarter and part of the third.

He returned in the fourth and finished the game with a team-high 16 points.

“Evan Madden is a pretty good basketball player,” Gallo said. “He had to sit the whole first half because he had two fouls in the first quarter. He sat the whole second quarter then played most of the third. We got him the basketball in some pretty good spots. We hit him on a huge back cut from Pete Gabor, which I thought was the play of the game. That was an and-one that gave us the lead late in the fourth quarter.”

Gabor didn’t score but he played a key role on defense.

“He just competes on every single play,” Gallo said. “He could play two minutes or 20 minutes but when his number is called he’s just ready to play. He was unbelievable defensively tonight. We gave him multiple guys to defend. He’ll just guard anybody. I was real proud of his effort tonight.”

Lewis finished with 11 points and Palmer Capretta pitched in with nine for the Hornets.

Kirtland won’t celebrate this win, not with four key conference games coming up in the next seven days.

The Hornets host Independence on Tuesday then travel to Berkshire for a battle for first place on Thursday. Independence nearly knocked off the Badgers on Friday but a potential game-winning 3-pointer came up short at the buzzer.

Kirtland closes out the week with home games against Cardinal on Friday and Cuyahoga Heights on Saturday.

Steve Hare
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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