Friday, September 22, 2023

Kirtland rally falls short against Chagrin Falls

KIRTLAND—Chagrin Falls jumped out to an 11-0 lead and led 19-2 in the first quarter of the Tigers’ 61-55 win at Kirtland on Tuesday.

Despite the loss, the Hornets gained some confidence heading into the postseason as they battled back to pull to within one point of the Tigers in the fourth quarter.

“Obviously, that 19-2 (deficit) hurt,” said Kirtland coach Nick Gallo. “We threw some different lineups out there too and that hurt us a little bit but I was happy with the way we fought.”

The Hornets closed out the regular season with a 13-9 record and dropped their final two games of the season to West Geauga, the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division champion and to the Tigers, who finished second in the CVC’s big division.

Playing against quality opponents could help the Hornets when they open the postseason against Columbia at home on March 2.

“It was a good two games for us to go against West Geauga on Friday and these guys,” Gallo said. “It was a good effort. For us to get three or four good challenges, Geneva, West Geauga and Chagrin going down the stretch here is an excellent opportunity for us to prepare and to play on. We’re looking at March 2.”

Trailing 35-22 at halftime, the Hornets got hot in the third quarter and pulled to within 46-36. Dylan Fulco, who finished with a game-high 22 points, hit a pair of 3-pointers in the quarter to fuel the Hornets’ run.

Dylan Cosgrove hit two 3s in the fourth quarter with the second cutting Chagrin Falls’ lead to 55-54 with 1:36 left to play.

“We learned we’ve got to play a full basketball game,” Gallo said. “Obviously, with the West Geauga game we played a bad four minutes and we played a bad four minutes tonight. That’s the difference in the basketball game. We’re right there. When we take quality shots and we get quality possessions we’re a good basketball team. We’ve got some size, which could cause some problems when the tournament comes around.”

Prior to the game, Kirtland honored its six seniors: Fulco, Brandon Samsa, Mike Zeuli, Matt Krulc, Kyle Work and Dylan Aquila.

“It was about the seniors tonight,” Gallo said. “We got some great contributions. Matt Krulc was playing up the line and Fulco stepped in and sparked us in the third quarter. That’s what it’s all about. These are great kids. A loss is a loss but it was a good experience for us tonight.”

Jenson Yonker led the Tigers with 16 points.

Chagrin Falls 61, Kirtland 55

Chagrin Falls (14-6): Bencko 13, Begnan 3, Bartlett 6, Amendola 2, DiFiore 10, Yonker 16, DiFiore 11

Kirtland (13-9): Capretta 4, Mueller 4, Samsa 3, Cosgrove 8, Fulco 22, Work 4, Camino 3, McGill 7

Chagrin 23 12 11 15 — 61
Kirtland 9 13 14 19 — 55

Free throws: Kirtland 8 of 10, Chagrin 17 of 20; 3-pointers: Kirtland 7 (Fulco 4, Cosgrove 2, McGill), Chagrin 4 (Bencko 1, Begnan 1, DiFiore, Yonker).

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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