Monday, March 20, 2023

Kirtland overcomes slow start in 59-52 win over Conneaut

Kirtland spotted visiting Conneaut a 17-11 first quarter lead but the Hornets rallied to win the game, 59-52, to close out their first week of play with a 2-1 record.

“It was a good win for us,” said Kirtland first year coach Nick Gallo. “We came out a little sloppy but we really responded well.”

 Sam Skiljan, who led the Hornets with 13 points, kicked off Kirtland’s second quarter rally with a pair of big buckets. That helped the Hornets to cut the Spartans’ lead to 25-24 at halftime.

“Sam really got us going in the second,” Gallo said. “We’re just trying to find ways to win so early in the season and with getting the guys back so late. We’ve had nine practices and it’s a little bit of a new system for them but we’ll get there.”

Behind Skiljan and Matt Grazia, who finished with nine points on three 3-pointers, the Hornets outscored the Spartans by 10 in the third quarter to take a 45-36 lead into the fourth.

Jacob Boyd also stepped up in the quarter and finished with nine points.

“Sammy came out and hit a couple of shots for us and Jacob Boyd had are ally nice quarter,” Gallo said. “He was very aggressive in transition and we really picked it up defensively. Matt hit a couple of big threes for us in the second half.”

Owen Lewis pitched in with 12 points while Tommy Loncar contributed with seven and Cole DiFabio scored six for the Hornets.

“I think we know we’re a lot of driving and kick and we use a lot of ball screens,” Gallo said. “We’re going to be a perimeter-oriented team this season. We’re going to have to knock down shots and be able to drive and kick and find guys. We were pretty balanced scoring-wise.”

Loncar and DiFabio stepped up in other ways as well.

“Cole really battled for us on the glass. He came in and gave us a nice punch tonight being the fourth option offensively and he kind of gave us a nice look. All six of his points were in the third quarter, which was a nice push for us,” Gallo said. “Tommy Loncar had another nice game for us too. He was a presence in front of the glass and he did a nice job defending the ball screens tonight. We need him to be a little more aggressive offensively. I think he’s going to get there, we just need to find him on the post more.”

Kirtland travels to Windham on Monday.

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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