Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Independence routs Wickliffe for fourth straight win

After losing four of their first six games, the Independence Blue Devils refocused their attention on fundamentals and doing the little things that lead to victories.

That resulted in the Blue Devils extending their winning streak to four straight games after Tuesday’s 64-18 win over visiting Wickliffe.

“The kids did a great job of working hard on Monday and prepping for Tuesday and they came in with a good attitude,” said Independence coach Mike Marcinko. “Even pregame-wise they were talking about playing the right way. They weren’t worried about wins and losses. It was more of the process than the end results. They knew the end result would be there if the process was good.”

Independence (6-4) jumped out to a 16-2 lead after the first quarter and led, 33-13, at halftime.

Ball movement allowed the Blue Devils to get the ball inside to Megan Kuczmarski, who finished with a game and career high 20 points.

“They moved the ball really well against the Wickliffe zone,” Marcinko said. “Megan was the beneficiary of that. We got the ball inside to her a ton. The kids, all the gals did a good job of getting it to the post and Megan found a soft spot in the zone.”

Kuczmarski now is second on the team with 12.0 points per game.

“That’s a result of hard work,” Marcinko said. “She played AAU basketball for the first time last spring and never missed a workout. She’s one of those where you can point to all the work that led up to the season. The time that you make yourself individually better is the off-season and Megan took full advantage of the off months and made herself better.”

A big run in the third quarter allowed Marcinko to empty his bench.

“We came out in the third quarter and did a great job in the first five minutes and that way we could get everyone in and keep teaching the young ones and let the older ones get a rest and cheer on the younger kids,” Marcinko said. “Defensively, we picked up tempo and pressed them early then backed up at half. Even man-to-man we were trying to keep our edge and told them we didn’t want the ball in the paint. We gave them goals as we went along.”

Hallie Zumack and Kaitlin Richards both chipped in with 10 points.

Zumack is the team’s leading scorer with 12.1 points per game and Richards has seen limited varsity experience.

“(Katilin), she’s a freshman, JV player,” Marcinko said. “She was talking to Megan on the bench and she learned from what Hal and Megan were doing in the post. She found her way in and ate up space and received the ball and scored. There’s another girl who learned from the people on the floor and the people she was sitting next to and it resulted in a lot of good shot opportunities.”

Freshman Erica Esper scored the first basket of her varsity career in the game.

“It was a group effort getting Erica her shot because the bench was going nuts,” Marcinko said. “I felt bad for her because there was a whole lot of pressure on her to get a bucket. She did fine. She hit a three and got on the board.”

Julia Riley scored three points and Sophie Piteo added a bucket but their greatest contributions came on defense.

“Julia defensively had a ton of steals and deflections and Sophie Piteo played one of her better floor games,” Marcinko said. “She manned up their point guard and turned her all over the place in the first half.”

Independence returns to action on Dec. 30 when the Blue Devils travel to Harvey for a Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division game.

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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