Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Independence regroups for win at Cardinal

MIDDLEFIELD—A nine-point first half left Independence in a big hole at Cardinal on Tuesday but the Blue Devils regrouped in the second half and pulled out a 41-37 win over the Huskies.

Cardinal led 8-4 after the first quarter and 20-9 at halftime.

“We had a little trouble the other night putting in the hole too but we have gotten good shots though, which I’m really pleased with how we’re executing our offense,” said Independence coach Hugh McMahon. “We fought through it tonight. This is by far our best win for this class and this team because we didn’t play our best. They did it with their defense.”

Independence’s defense flipped the game in the Blue Devils’ favor by holding Cardinal to just four points in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Independence’s offense began to click.

“It was a huge third quarter to come out and only give up four points,” McMahon said. “I told them when we click the defense up a little bit more the offense will follow and it did. It’s a great tribute to their character to keep fighting even after we only scored nine points. That might be a record in a half for any team I’ve coached at any level. You know what, it didn’t matter to them. Maybe earlier in the season it would have mattered so that showed a lot of growth. That’s what I’m really proud of.”

The Huskies struggled to beat Independence’s pressure and even when they did get the ball up the floor they rushed their shots and lost out on extra scoring opportunities when Independence chased down the loose balls.

“I told them at halftime we have to come out ready to play and take it to them at the start of the third quarter and we didn’t. If you leave a team in a game long enough they can beat you,” said Cardinal coach Jon Cummins. “Teams pressure us and we break the press and we go into attack mode instead of setting it back up and running offense.”

Jason Bianco sparked the Blue Devils with several big shots, including a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter that pulled the Blue Devils to within 24-21.

“This is a team win, “McMahon said. “When you make only nine points in a half you have to find it someplace and Jason Bianco came off the bench. He’s our designated shooter against the zone and he hit a couple big shots for us and defended really well. That’s something he’s been working hard at and improving. He hasn’t seen a lot of time this year so I’m really impressed with how he stepped in to the situation and gave us a boost.”

Bianco finished with six points while Mario Figliola led the Blue Devils with 12 and Matt Terrano added 10.

Cardinal’s Cody Naftzger scored a game-high 13 points and Craig Kaser added nine for the Huskies.

Independence travels to Berkshire on Friday while Cardinal is at Cuyahoga Heights.

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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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