Kirtland’s quest for an undefeated regular season is still intact but the Hornets had to work for their 49-42 win at Hawken on Wednesday.
The Hornets, who with the win clinched outright their first Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division championship since the 2014-2015 season, relied on their defense until their offense found its rhythm.
“It was all about defense tonight because our offense was flat, there’s no question about it,” said Kirtland coach Bob Bell. “Anybody that knows anything about this game knows you have to play tough defense night in and night out because sometimes the offense just is not going to be there. That kept us in the game and we were able to get to the basket a time or two and hit some big buckets at the end.”
Hawken led 15-14 after the first quarter but the Hornets picked it up in the second and took a 26-22 lead into the locker room.
Kirtland’s defense held that lead in the second half.
“It was a great team effort,” Bell said. “Jenna Sayle did a great job defending Carly Perusek and she had a lot of help. There was a lot of help-side defense with everybody else. We were going between man and zone and it didn’t matter because Katie McCollister was all over people out in front. She did a great job heading up our defense. Everybody else really stepped up defensively. I’m pleased with everyone’s defense.”
Senior Sydney Snyder scored a game-high 17 points in capping her high school career with a second conference title. She and McCollister were freshmen on that 2014-2015 squad that won the league crown.
“As a team, we set winning the CVC title as a goal from the beginning, so it feels amazing to know we were able to check one of our multiple goals off for this season,” Snyder said. “As a senior, winning the title is great, especially after last year when we didn’t get. Katie and I couldn’t be happier with the team’s effort this season to dig deep every game and win the title.”
Sayle contributed with 14 points and Lauren Lutz finished with 10.
“Lauren Lutz came up really big for us with 10 points and she pulled down some incredibly important rebounds at the end and made both ends of a two-shot free throw going down the stretch to keep us on top. She had a great game,” Bell said. “We missed a lot of shots but we still managed to get three people in double figures and that’s important.”
The Hornets, who close out the regular season at Richmond Heights on Saturday, need just one more win to tie the school record for victories in a single season. The 1985 squad, led by current assistant coach Julie Madden, finished 22-2 and an appearance in the regional championship game.
“All of us have worked so hard this season to have the record we hold today,” Snyder said. “We definitely want to win on Saturday to break the school’s record because it gives us that boost of confidence heading into the tournament, which we are really excited for. I couldn’t be prouder of these girls this season.”
Kirtland 49, Hawken 42
Kirtland (21-0, 13-0 CVC): S. Snyder 17, Sayle 14, Lutz 10, Yurick 4, Camino 2, L. Snyder 2
Hawken (8-10, 7-6 CVC): Perusek 16, Johnson 12, Stilson 5, Jackson 5, Zeldin 2, Smith 2
Kirtland 14 12 10 13 — 49
Hawken 15 5 11 11 — 42
Free throws: Kirtland 7 of 13, Hawken 10 of 12; 3-pointers: Kirtland 0, Hawken 2 (Jackson 1, Johnson 1); Rebounds: Hawken 36 (Perusek 13); Assists: Hawken 9 (Perusek 4)