Monday, February 6, 2023

Hornets complete sweep of Berkshire

BURTON– Jeremy Davis scored a team-high 17 points and Palmer Capretta added 12 but it was Tommy Powers who turned in the biggest play of the game in leading Kirtland to a 54-52 win at Berkshire on Tuesday.

Powers stepped in front of an Emil Hess pass as time expired to give the Hornets’ their second straight win over Berkshire after losing four straight the past two seasons.

“What a huge play,” said Kirtland coach Nick Gallo. “For him to recognize and just to sneak in there expecting Emil, even though the double came, for him to just jump over there and jump in the passing lane and finish the play off, huge.”

Kirtland defeated Berkshire, 64-50, back on Dec. 16.

Capretta gave Kirtland a two-point lead with just 7.9 seconds remaining in the game when he scored on a driving layup. He made contact with Berkshire’s Joe Bennington, who was called for a foul, but Capretta couldn’t convert the and-one.

 “We just kind of spread the floor and put two of our shooters on the weak side there and just let Palmer kind of create,” Gallo said of Kirtland’s final offensive possession. “It was pretty much a 50-50 call there if it was a charge or a block on that last play. We just noticed that Emil (Hess) wasn't hedging hard enough and we just wanted to try to expose the middle of the floor there and have him make a play and he did.”

Berkshire made it interesting when Nick Guanera’s inbounds pass found Ryan Johnson under the net. Johnson was fouled before he could put up a shot and the Badgers had four seconds left for another try.

That’s when Powers stepped up on defense to seal the win.

“I thought he was really good all night,” Gallo said of Powers. “I thought he challenged Ryan a couple shots. We just said, ‘Stay connected to Ryan and make someone else make a play.'”

Davis hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Kirtland a 17-13 advantage after the first quarter and finished with three 3s on the night.

That was the type of performance the Hornets needed to compensate for Brandon Samsa being limited to just seven points.

“That’s huge for us, 17 from him tonight,” Gallo said of Davis. “We didn’t establish Brandon enough. We just have to get him going more.”

Kirtland held Berkshire standouts Hess and Johnson to just 13 and five points, respectively. Guarnera scored a game-high 19 points for the Badgers.

“We're not going to let Ryan and Emil get going, even though Emil hit two huge shots against us,” Gallo said. “I just think Dylan Fulco and Brandon Samsa take the challenge on of guarding those guys for 32 minutes. Tommy comes in and gives us some good quality minutes guarding them too and Dom (Capretta) did it for a couple possessions as well. We just wanted to make other guys beat us on this basketball team.”

Jack Bailey pitched in with seven points for the Hornets while Dom Capretta scored five, Fulco chipped in with four and Adam Mueller added a bucket.

“We're going to get better,” Gallo said. “We got some nice contributions from our young guys even though they're not in the scorebook. Adam Mueller steps in and played some quality minutes and hits a huge layup. Even though he picked up that charge call it was still a great take by him. Them playing at this pace at the varsity level as sophomores is just huge for us.”

Kirtland won at Berkshire for the first time since the 2013-2014 season. That’s also the last year the Hornets swept a season series from their Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division rivals.

“I think that's so rewarding for them, especially for Palmer and Jeremy who have been three year guys for me and who were in the rotation as sophomores to come over here and get a win for the first time in three years on this floor,” Gallo said. “I think it means a lot, especially for them both to play pretty well in this basketball game was huge.”

Kirtland improved to 7-4 overall and 7-1 in the CVC. Berkshire dropped to 2-9, 2-5. The Badgers have lost four straight league games by a total of 12 points. The last three losses have been by two points each.

Kirtland 54, Berkshire 52

Kirtland (7-4): D.Capretta 5, P. Capretta 12, Samsa 7, Davis 17, Fulco 4, Mueller 2, Bailey 7

Berkshire (3-7, 2-3 CVC): Hess 13, Malkus 4, Pawlak 4, Johnson 5, Guarnera 19, Pillot 5, Bennington 2

Kirtland 17 10 10 17 — 54
Berkshire 13 15 8 16 — 52

Field goals: Kirtland 20 of 43, Berkshire 20 of 52; Free throws: Kirtland 8 of 12, Berkshire 4 of 10; 3-pointers: Kirtland 6 (Davis 3, D. Capretta 1, P. Capretta 1, Samsa 1), Berkshire 8 (Guarnera 4, Hess 2, Pillot, Johnson); Rebounds: Kirtland 29, Berkshire 30; Assists: Berkshire 11 (Guarnera, Johnson 3); JV: Kirtland 49, Berkshire 33

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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