Saturday, June 15, 2024

Independence gets by Lutheran West, advances to sectional final

INDEPENDENCE—When it comes to the post-season, high school basketball coaches are less concerned about how their team wins than they are about simply advancing in the tournament.

Independence’s 38-20 win over visiting Lutheran West in Wednesday’s Division III sectional semifinal certainly won’t be remembered as one of the Blue Devils’ most impressive wins but the team advanced to play another day and that’s all head coach Mike Marcinko was hoping for.

“It still wasn’t clean and the girls said the same thing but (in the box score) it doesn’t say pretty or ugly, it’s just a W,” Marcinko said. “We’ll take it and survive and advance.”

Lutheran West’s zone defense stymied the Blue Devils in the first half.

Independence led 10-6 after the first quarter and 14-8 at halftime as neither team managed to generate much offense in the second quarter.

“Early on they did a great job,” Marcinko said. “They zoned us and we couldn’t find the ocean at that point and then it gets mental. As soon as you miss one it starts to multiply. We got good looks but they didn’t go in and then it gets in your head. Next thing you know you go from 0-for-2 to 0-for-22, so they did a good job of that.”

Thanks to their defense, the Blue Devils held the lead and had the ability to alter their approach in the second half.

Marcinko changed up his offense, using two guards to distribute the ball to spread the court. That forced the Longhorns into a man defense, which created more scoring opportunities for Independence.

“Once we got them out of that we started to score and we could press and we’d get a turnover,” Marcinko said. “Next thing you know we’re up 12 and 14 and we’re feeling a little bit better.”

Hallie Zumack and Halle Dorko dominated the third quarter.

The two combined for 12 points in the quarter to help the Blue Devils pull away heading into the fourth quarter with a 26-10 lead.

Zumack scored 12 of her game-high 16 points in the second half while Dorko finished with six.

“They’re our go-to people,” Marcinko said. “They kind of take turns who the leading scorer is. If they don’t, if they’re both on the same day, that’s when you make distance and you get out ahead of people. Today that wasn’t the case. It was one or the other at various times in the game so we couldn’t get that big run to go run and hide. They found different times to get the job done for us.”

Nicole Ferrara added 10 points for the Blue Devils but she had an even greater task of breaking Lutheran West’s press to get the ball into the half court.

“She gets beat up and has to run the game for us,” Marcinko said of Ferrara. “That poor girl, we put so much pressure on her as far as running what we do and then she’s getting beat up and hand-checked and run into and diving on the floor.”

Julia Riley scored just two points but she was in lockdown mode on the defensive end of the court.

“Defensively, she did some nice things for us,” Marcinko said. “It’s always 100-percent. No matter what her stat line is, it’s always 100-percent.”

The Blue Devils, who won their fifth straight game and improved to 14-9 on the season, advanced to play Trinity in Saturday’s sectional championship game, which will be played at 7:00 p.m. at Independence Middle School. The Blue Devils won at Trinity, 48-41, back on Jan. 19.

“We get them again,” Marcinko said. “The good part is you kind of know what they do for the most part. We went and scouted them again. We’ll prep and take two days to prep and get ready. “


Steve Hare
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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