Saturday, January 28, 2023

Independence earns season sweep of Kirtland

INDEPENDENCE—Riccela DiGeronimo scored a game-high 16 points to lead Independence to a 58-50 win over Kirtland in a key Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division showdown on Saturday.

With the win, the Blue Devils earned a season sweep of the Hornets for the first time since joining the CVC and gained a two-game lead for first place in the division.

“The girls did a great job in preparing,” Independence coach Mike Marcinko said. “We tried to keep it very normal all week, especially with the snow days and missing a day of practice. I learned from them that if we make a bigger deal out of it than it’s worse so we tried to keep everything normal. We had a really, really good practice (on Friday), one of the best we’ve had in a while because it’s hard this time of year. It was really energetic and upbeat and it bled over into today.”

Independence led for most of the game, only yielding the lead one time early in the third quarter when the Hornets scored the first four points of the second half.

After that, the Blue Devils regrouped and went on a run of their own to retake the lead for good.

“There are always peaks and valleys in the game that both teams went through but I thought we got through our valleys a little quicker and got things done,” Marcinko said. “It was a good win.”

Riley Wilson and Haylee Dmitruk joined DiGeronimo in double-digit scoring with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Those three also were instrumental in breaking Kirtland’s press.

“We had some moments that they sped us up but when you’ve got Haylee, it’s like a one-man press breaker,” Marcinko said. “Between Hayley, Riccela and Riley, they dealt with it. The girls on the other end, they know their role and they know what the reads are and if they don’t like it they bounce it back outside.”

The Blue Devils were equally effective in taking away Kirtland’s ability to drive to the basket.

That forced the Hornets to shoot from the perimeter for most of the contest.

“I thought if we could have gotten a few shots to fall we could have hung in there,” Kirtland coach Bob Bell said. “We took one lead at one point in the second half but they really knocked down their free throws well.”

Kirtland did finish with three in double figures as Lauren Lutz posted a team-high 13 points and Jenna Sayle and Lauren Snyder finished with 12 and 11, respectively.

Independence improved to 14-2 overall and 10-0 in league play while Kirtland dropped to 14-5, 9-2.

The Blue Devils can clinch a share of the league title with a win at Berkshire on Wednesday and need just two wins to win the league title outright.

Kirtland will now focus its attention on the postseason.

“We want to finish out the rest of the season and now we’re going to concentrate on looking forward to the tournament,” Bell said. “We may end up playing Independence again. It’s very possible.”

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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