Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Hornets snap losing streak to league rival Berkshire

KIRTLAND—A 12-2 third quarter run led Kirtland to a 64-50 win over visiting Berkshire and snapped the Hornets’ four-game losing streak to their league rivals.

Palmer Capretta led the Hornets with 21 points and the Kirtland defense limited Berkshire standout Emil Hess to just one field goal and four points in the game.

“This is a big win,” said Kirtland coach Nick Gallo. “Losing to them four straight times, Emil is a senior and so is (Capretta). They've played against each other. It's a huge win for (Palmer). I'm very happy for the seniors for sure.”

Kirtland’s strategy was to keep Hess from single-handedly leading the Badgers to victory.

Dylan Fulco and Brandon Samsa were just unbelievable tonight,” Gallo said. “The amount of minutes they played guarding Emil Hess, the best player on the floor. We knew we had to give him a look every time and we did it different ways. We showed him a couple different defensive sets and that's what it's going to take to beat these guys.”

The attention the Hornets paid to Hess opened up Aaron Pawlak for some big shots early in the game. The Berkshire senior hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the first quarter.

“Pawlak hit a couple threes early in the first quarter but I thought we did a good job of engaging (Hess) all night,” Gallo said. “We made them shoot from the outside. We made other guys beat us. That’s what we talked about.”

Pawlak’s hot hand helped Berkshire build a 16-11 lead but Jeremy Davis responded with back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Hornets on top after the first, 17-16.

Davis finished with 13 points.

“That was huge,” Gallo said of Davis’ scoring run. “They were quality shots. His maturity, he's grown up so much. He looked back at me one time and said, 'That's a bad one coach.' He wouldn't have done that last year. We need him to score. We're pretty balanced skill-wise, but he's one of our leaders. When he gets going we're very good.”

Kirtland’s defense found its groove in the second quarter and outscored the Badgers 18-12 to take a 35-28 lead into the locker room.

The Hornets came out even more determined to snap their losing streak to the Badgers and held Berkshire scoreless in the third quarter until Pawlak’s put back with just six seconds left in the quarter.

By then it was too late as Kirtland pushed its lead to 47-30 with just eight minutes left in the game.

Gallo swapped out big man Jack Bailey, who dominated the glass early in the game, to use a smaller, faster defense to disrupt the Berkshire offense.

“We went a little small,” Gallo said. “It all goes back to what I told the guys before the game started, was we have to show them multiple looks and play Emil as a team. That was the biggest thing tonight.”

Bailey finished with nine points but his overall contribution on both ends of the floor can’t be measured.

“Those 50-50 balls around the rim, I thought he was excellent in doing that and making plays for others, getting deflections and walling up,” Gallo said. “He's going to grow. He missed a couple bunnies and I think he got a little frustrated with himself but he'll get there. He's so raw and so big and so wide, he just causes so much havoc, especially on the defensive end of the floor.”

Samsa contributed to Kirtland’s win with 10 points while Dominic Capretta and Tommy Powers finished with six and five, respectively.

Tim Pillot contributed with eight while Jacob Young, Josh Espinosa and Joe Bennington each scored four for the Badgers.

Despite losing both games to Berkshire in 2014-2015, the Hornets split the CVC title with the Badgers. Berkshire won the league crown outright last winter.

The two teams will meet again on Jan. 17 at Berkshire with a lot on the line.

“We've got to play them again,” Gallo said. “Obviously (Nick) Guarnera didn't play tonight (for Berkshire). When he's on the floor they're going to be much better. They'll be ready.”

Kirtland 64, Berkshire 50

Berkshire (0-3, 0-1): Young 2, Espinosa 2, Hess 4, Pawlak 24, Johnson 8, Pellit 8, Bennington 2

Kirtland (2-0, 2-0): D.Capretta 6, P. Capretta 21, Samsa 10, Davis 13, Powers 5, Bailey 9

Berkshire 16 12 2 20 — xx Kirtland 17 18 12 17 — xx

Field goals: Berkshire 14 made, Kirtland 13 made; Free throws: Berkshire 10 of 18, Kirtland 8 of 14; 3-pointers: Berkshire 4 (Paugh, 3, Pillak), Kirtland 10 (D. Copretta 2, P. Capretta 2, Samsa 2, Davis 3, Powers)

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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