Thursday, December 8, 2022

Independence downs John Hay in third-place game

WILLOUGHBY—Three scored in double figures to lead Independence to a 54-43 win over John Hay in the third-place game of the Melanie Williams Memorial Tournament at Andrews-Osborne Academy on Sunday.

The Blue Devils finished the tournament with wins over Division I John Hay, a district semifinalist last year, and Division II Orange, who also reached the district semifinals last season. Independence’s only loss was a 10-point loss to Division I Eastlake North in the semifinals.

“That’s why we come here because we’re going to see really good talent, good teams, good people, and you’re going to get tested and pushed around,” Independence coach Mike Marcinko said. “Every day we played this year we got tested and pushed around. For the most part, we answered the call every time.”

It was the Blue Devils that did the pushing on Sunday.

Independence quickly jumped out to a 15-7 lead after the first quarter and 28-15 at halftime.

The Blue Devils led by as many as 24 points in the second half before the Hornets made a run to pull to within eight.

“We thought coming into today, not to be arrogant or cocky, we said this morning in our walkthrough that we feel we’re the better team,” Marcinko said. “I said if we play like that then good things will happen. We kind of kept them at arm’s length throughout the game. We had some nice runs and we had some times where we didn’t execute like we wanted but I don’t think they ever really could get momentum and I thought the girls did a good job taking care of that.”

Riley Wilson was named to the all-tournament team after leading the Blue Devils with a game-high 19 points. Haylee Dmitruk added 12.

“Riley has been playing well out of the gate and so has Haylee,” Marcinko said. “They both have been playing well. I told the girls when you do all that all-tournament stuff you feel bad because someone gets left out. Both Riley and Haylee were in there for the coaches to look at and they both did a phenomenal job.”

Displeased with her performance in Saturday’s semifinals, Riccela DiGeronimo studied film on Sunday to identify what went wrong and how she could fix it. Her efforts paid off as she finished with 12 points.

“She did a heck of a job the last two games,” Marcinko said. “She and I were texting back and forth this morning while we were watching the film. We were trying to figure out some of the reads she missed the other day and she was frustrated. We were texting back and forth looking at the film where her opportunities could be and where she could dish it off. Talk about changing a frustrating day for her on Saturday to today’s experience and that’s all her. She put the work in and she learned from her mistakes and capitalized.”

Erica Esper added three points in the win and Kaitlin Richards and Hailey Wilmot both finished with two.

Amy Ksiazka and Reni Kaiser excelled in their defensive roles and Richards and Madison Stepanik protected the paint for the Blue Devils.

“Amy and Reni did their job defensively,” Marcinko said. “I think our post play struggled a little bit today with the quickness. There were times when both Madison and Kaitlyn both stepped up to stop penetration, so at least they shot a layup or some sort of float over pressured shot instead of just getting to the rim. All they needed to do for us was to try to stop up the lane and protect the rim and for the most part, they did that.”

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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