Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Independence keeps streak alive with win at Kirtland

KIRTLAND—Independence used clutch free throws to hold off host Kirtland in a battle of Chagrin Valley Conference divisional leaders on Saturday.

The visiting Blue Devils built a 26-11 first-half lead then held off Kirtland’s second-half surge to improve to 14-0 on the year and 10-0 in the CVC Metro Division. Kirtland dropped to 11-4 overall but still remains atop the CVC Valley Division with an 8-1 mark.

“Kirtland is in the same spot we are,” Independence coach Mike Marcinko said in regards to both teams cruising through their conference schedules. “We don’t have grind out game after game after game, so when you have one, it kind of slaps you around. I think it slapped them around early where our [ace was getting to them and we got buckets. As the game wore on, their physicality and pace got to us and we slowed down. That was probably good for both teams for two good opponents to get after it.”

Riley Wilson scored seven of her game-high 21 and Haylee Dmitruk and Anna Weber both hit 3-pointers to help Independence build a 17-8 lead in the first quarter.

After limiting the Hornets to just three free throws in the second quarter, Independence took a 15-point lead into the break.

Lauren Snyder drained a pair of 3-pointers and a free throw and Macy McIntosh scored four of her six in the third quarter to help the Hornets pull to within 37-24 heading into the fourth.

Independence managed just three field goals in the fourth quarter but converted on 13-of-16 free throws down the stretch—and 18-of-23 in the game—to hold off the Hornets.

“It’s crucial,” Marcinko said of hitting free throws, especially late in a close game. “We have a fun free throw competitive game, we call it Mooing Free Throws, don’t even ask, but it’s all to distract the shooter,” Marcinko said. “We were laughing because all of that came into play late in the game with pressure free throws, people screaming and yelling and you had to deal with it. You had to focus and knock shots down. You’re trying to win a conference title and you’re getting into the tournament eventually. You’ve got to manage those last two to three minutes handle the ball, hit shots and free throws.”

Kirtland outscored Independence in the second half, 33-27, but the Blue Devils did enough damage in the first to run their unbeaten streak to 14 games.

“That’s tough to replicate in practice,” Marcinko said of the competitive game. “The conference doesn’t afford you every week of a brawl every night. When they come up, you’ve got to be able to adjust to and deal with them. I thought the girls did a really good job because we got out, they make a run, we stave it off, we get out, they make a run and now it’s a tight game in the end. The girls stepped up and made stops, they hit their free throws. It was a good road win against a tough opponent and you’re still sitting up top.”

Wilson led all scorers with 21 and Haylee Dmitruk added 13. Madison Stepanik and Riccela DiGeronimo added eight and six, respectively.

Julia Camino led Kirtland with 14 points, Snyder finished with 12 and Reilly Greenlee and Macy McIntosh added eight and six, respectively.

Steve Harehttp://www.ohiovarsity.com
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes OhioVarsity.com, 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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