Saturday, June 15, 2024

Independence has potential

Graduation took its toll on the Independence girls’ basketball team but the Blue Devils do return three starters and a host of others with varsity experience.

The Blue Devils finished last season 12-7 overall and 6-4 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division. If all goes well, Independence could perform even better this winter.

“We lost 25 points per game due to graduation, so finding those points will be key,” said eighth-year Independence coach Mike Marcinko, who is 101-48 at the school. “We will need a group effort in scoring; having three, four, or five players at or over double-digits will help the cause. We have some quickness and athleticism and at the pace we like to play, that is a positive. Pushing tempo at both ends could develop into an advantage for us.”

Marcinko is pleased with what he’s seen in the preseason and now it’s up to his players to carry that into the regular season.

“So far, our pace and tempo have been good,” Marcinko said. “We’re working at finding our identity individually and collectively. The potential is there for a good winter, hinging our ability to put all the pieces together.”

Senior Anna Weber returns to the starting lineup after earning first-team All-CVC and second-team all-district honors.

The 5-foot-11 forward averaged 11 points and seven rebounds per game last season.

“Anna has proven to be one of the best players in the conference and is a complete player,” Marcinko said. “She will be counted on to lead the team in many areas and is up for the task.”

Juniors Natalie George and Kara DeSmith also are returning starters.

George, a 5-foot-5 guard, averaged four points, four rebounds, and four assists per game last year while DeSmith, a 5-foot-7 guard, dropped in five points with four rebounds per game. George was named second-team All-CVC. DeSmith earned honorable mention all-conference honors.

“Natalie makes us go. She is in charge of pace and tempo. She gets the ball where it needs to go on offense and as one of our best defenders is called upon to have us organized and defend the opponent’s better player,” Marcinko said. “Kara is one of our best defenders and will now be asked to score more. Kara has the athleticism to accomplish that goal and is in a position to have a very strong season.”

Junior Addie Westerburg and senior Alex Adams round out the starting lineup.

Westerburg, a 5-foot-9 forward, averaged four points and three rebounds per game as a sophomore. Adams, a 5-foot-7 guard, scored two points with three rebounds per contest.

“Addie is looking to be impactful on the boards and scoring. She can play multiple positions, which gives her opportunities to contribute,” Marcinko said. “Alex is very quick and athletic and can provide defensive pressure and transition points. Alex will be counted on for her leadership and presence on the floor.”

Senior Mackenzie McMahon, junior Ashley Adams, and sophomores Casey Adams and Cat Rieger will provide depth for the Blue Devils.

McMahon is a 5-foot-6 forward while Ashley Adams is a 5-foot-7 guard.

“(McMahon) knows the game very well and provides leadership on and off the floor. She brings high energy and effort and it will be much needed for us to be successful,” Marcinko said. “Ashley is an all-purpose player. She provides solid defense, has the ability to score, and is very scrappy.”

Casey Adams is a 5-foot-8 guard and Rieger is a 5-foot-10 center.

“Casey brings size and athleticism to the mix. She can fill many roles for us and plays aggressively at the pace we want to play,” Marcinko said. “Cat is working her way into the rotation, providing some size and scoring in the paint. She will be counted on to make an impact for us at both ends of the floor.”


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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