INDEPENDENCE—An eight-point fourth quarter lead wasn’t enough for Independence in a 46-40 season-opening loss to visiting Wickliffe on Tuesday.
The visiting Blue Devils went on an eight-point run to tie the game then used a six-point run to pull away from Independence in the closing minutes.
“When we were up 38-30, that’s where we’ve really got to bear down and have some leadership and execute because you know a team that’s well-coached is going to come after you and put more pressure on you,” said Independence coach Hugh McMahon. “We didn’t. We probably had more turnovers in the fourth quarter than we had shots. You’re not going to win if you do that.”
Wickliffe took a 42-40 lead—its first since early in the second quarter—with 1:02 left in the game. Back-to-back turnovers and four straight Wickliffe free throws sealed Independence’s fate.
“If you’re going to win games you’ve got to be able to take care of the ball down the stretch and in crunch time,” McMahon said. “That’s the next step for us. We’ve got to develop some leadership on the court. It happens in the hallways. It happens in the locker room. It happens outside in the public. That’s what these guys have to step up and do. That’s high school basketball. When you graduate your one captain the other people have to step up. This is a case where we’ll watch the film and have to learn from that.”
Independence’s Mario Figliola matched Wickliffe’s top scorer, Marquis Lewis, with 14 points. Nick Brunsman and Stephen Molchan both scored six points for Independence.
Kyle Stefanski scored four points and Ryan Dworznik was held scoreless. McMahon had hoped for more out of them after both turned in strong preseasons.
“Ryan Dworznik played great in the preseason. He seemed to be off tonight. We need him to step up a little bit and be more aggressive,” McMahon said. “Kyle seemed to be off from the outside a little bit but he’s still got to look for a shot. Those are two guys who are definitely going to have to score for us and we got a total of four points from them.”
Independence led, 18-17, at halftime and outscored Wickliffe, 20-13, in the third quarter.
The key for McMahon is getting the Blue Devils to play with consistency for four quarters.
“There were some opportunities we missed early on,” he said. “I think we were too excited and we didn’t stay within the stuff that we’re trying to run. We had senior leadership last year and these guys have to develop into that role this year. When you’re scoring 40 points in a game it’s going to be tough to win. We’ve got to get a little bit more from some guys. We’ll break down the film and show them where they can improve on and we’ve got to redouble our efforts and come back. That’s what the game is all about. We’ve got to teach these guys how to be leaders and perform under pressure.”
Independence hosts Orange on Friday.