CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS—A change to the game plan led Cuyahoga Heights to a 56-44 win over visiting Independence in a rivalry game on Monday.
Heights switched from a zone defense to a Box-and-One to defend against Independence standout Kyle Zygmunt.
“The kids actually wanted to play a Box-and-One,” said Heights coach Michael Tartara. “They wanted to go out there and meet the challenge because they played it a couple of weeks ago against Open Door and they enjoyed doing it. We haven’t practiced it enough and there are some things we can tighten up on, but Kyle is such a good player and he’s one of the best passers I’ve ever seen at the high school level, so hats off to them for fighting their butts off over there but I’m happy for our guys.”
Dominic Belko scored five of his game-high 21 points in the first quarter as Heights jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the contest.
Zygmunt scored four points and Aidan Coljohn hit a big 3-pointer for the Blue Devils, who evened up the game at 13-13 heading into the second.
Heights took a 25-22 lead into the break.
“When there’s a ball-handler that can control the game the way Kyle can, there are a number of teams in our league that have that guy, but you’ve got to be aware of them,” Tartara said about limiting Zygmunt’s impact in the first half. “They have other shooters that can knock it down, so you have to be aware of them too, or if it’s a team that has more rebounders, you have to try and keep people off the boards. Whenever you try to take one thing away, you’re giving up something else and I thought our guys did a pretty good job of taking care of those other things.”
Holden Taylor went off in the third quarter to spark Heights to a 17-9 run.
Taylor scored all nine of his points in the third quarter and then Belko closed out the game with 11 in the fourth to hold off the Blue Devils.
“Holden had nine points in the third quarter and he was extra aggressive,” Tartara said. “David Collins generally subs in for him but he said, ‘He’s doing pretty good,’ so he didn’t come out. He’s been a role player for us but he really stepped up tonight.”
Nate Biggers contributed to the win with 11 points, Braylan McClardy added seven, David Collins finished with five, and Emmanuel Loizos scored three points.
“We share the ball really well and they’re truthfully excited for each other’s success,” Tartara said of his players. “When you have a group that really likes each other, and even on the bench, those guys are super-excited for the team, something good can happen and I feel like something good is happening.”
With the win, Cuyahoga Heights improved to 15-6 overall and 9-4 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division. Heights closes out the regular season with a home game against Wickliffe on Friday.
Independence dropped to 9-10, 6-6.
Zygmunt led the Blue Devils with 18 points. Coljohn and Jack Taliaferro both finished with six, Sam Crooks scored five, Landon Jatsek added four, Casey McGhee finished with three, and Michael Tommer scored two points.