Thursday, September 23, 2021

Hornets battle back to beat Blue Devils

KIRTLAND—Independence led by as many as 15 points in the first half of Tuesday’s Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division showdown at Kirtland on Tuesday but the Hornets used a 10-2 run early in the third quarter to climb back into the game and eventually won, 51-48.

The Hornets, who dropped a 76-74 game at Chardon on Monday, outscored Independence in the second half, 34-20.

“We knew we were going to come out and it was going to be a tough night because of last night and the emotional swings of that game (against Chardon),” said Kirtland coach Nick Gallo. “It was like a playoff atmosphere. Give Independence a lot of credit. I thought they controlled tempo.”

Wyatt Flynn scored eight of his game-high 21 points and Akhil Patel hit a 3-pointer in the first quarter to help the Blue Devils run out to a 13-4 lead after the first eight minutes of play.

Independence led, 28-17, at halftime.

“We played extremely well, aggressive defensively and we attacked the basket offensively, but they changed up their defense in the third quarter and kind of put us on our heels,” said Independence coach Hugh McMahon. “We had a five-point quarter, so that kind of put us on the defensive.”

Dawson Cosgrove scored seven of his team-high 13 points in the third as the Hornets rallied for a 35-33 lead heading into the fourth.

“I got on our guys early because we just weren’t guarding and we gave up so many ball reversals and they controlled the tempo,” Gallo said. “I thought we made some good changes and made some shots in the third quarter; that was the difference. Having a four-point first quarter, there wasn’t much fluidity offensively. We turned it over on the first possession and we didn’t guard the rim really well, but overall, it was a great effort.”

Brandon Samsa and Dominic Capretta also scored in double figures for the Hornets with 11 and 10, respectively. Seann McGill added eight points in the win.

“Seann has just made so much of an improvement this year and he’s guarding the rim so well and Dawson’s energy and activity, just flying around and getting tips and closing out, he did great,” Gallo said. “Adam Mueller gave us some fuel at the rim and made some plays. It was just a solid effort. We’re a very balanced team so we need different guys every night to step up.”

Kirtland improved to 8-5 overall and 6-4 in the CVC. The Hornets host Cardinal on Friday.

Kyle Stefanski pitched in with 10 points and Jamie McMahon added eight for the Blue Devils, who dropped to 5-9, 4-6.

“I really liked how we fought through until the last second to try and stay in the game,” Coach McMahon said. “We work hard enough to get opportunities for ourselves but we just didn’t take advantage of enough of them to win the game. One of these days and I think it’s going to be Friday, we’re going to beat one of the upper echelon teams in our league, so we’re turning the page and we’re going to go get one on Friday.”

Independence hosts rival Cuyahoga Heights on Friday.

Kirtland 51, Independence 48

Independence: Patel 1, Ceculski 2, Ksiazka 2, Stefanski 10, McMahon 8, Hall 4, Flynn 21

Kirtland (8-5, 6-4 CVC): Capretta 10 Mueller 4, Samsa 11, Cosgrove 13, Fulco 4, Camino 1, McGill 8

Independence 13 15 5 15 — 48
Kirtland 4 13 18 16 — 51

Free throws: Kirtland 6 of 15, independence 2 of 6; 3-pointers: Kirtland 7 (Cosgrove, McGill 2, Samsa, Capretta), Independence 4 (Stefanski 2, Patel, McMahon).

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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