KIRTLAND—In an effort to avoid the slow starts that have plagued his basketball team this season Kirtland coach Nick Gallo changed the Hornets’ pregame routine to simulate playing conditions.
That strategy paid off with a 54-41 win over visiting Cardinal on Saturday.
“We wanted to get the kids a little bit more active,” Gallo said. “We had a couple coaches down there and they’re just working them a little bit more with more shots and stretching routines. We got the jump ropes out too, just to get a sweat going versus us being just static in our warmup.”
The Hornets, who improved to 13-7 overall and 7-5 in league play, jumped out to a 16-8 first quarter lead but couldn’t maintain the same pace for four quarters.
“I think we were a little sloppy,” Gallo said. “We’re not going to make any excuses but I think having two days off of school and us coming in for school early on Friday, that just throws the kids off a little bit, but I thought we came out with better energy.”
“That’s the three guys when tournament time comes around they’re going to have to carry us offensively,” Gallo said. “With Sam attacking the rim and Matty attacking the rim, distributing it to others and knocking down the occasional jumper. Matty hasn’t shot the ball well lately but I thought a couple of them were real close to going in. I thought he was more in rhythm today. Evan is finally playing really good basketball. It’s kind of a shame that he missed four games this season and got off to a rough start. I think he’s getting into a groove. We’re getting the ball to him in the post more and he’s versatile enough to come out and hit the three.”
Cardinal, which dropped to 4-15, matched Kirtland’s energy but struggled to match the Hornets’ offensive output.
“Offensively, we’ve struggled. You can see that in our scores. The 30’s and 40’s is the highest we get,” said Cardinal coach Jon Cummins. “Jake Francis did a very good job of working hard for us. Craig always does a nice job. The seniors did a nice job. They’re working hard. Cody Hunt and Jerry are the lifeline for us of working hard and setting the tone for us. As a team we just need to convert more offensively.”
The Huskies hung with the Hornets for most of the game but faded down the stretch when they had to become more aggressive late in the game.
“A lot of times against teams when we play in the fourth quarter we have to change things up because we’re behind by seven or eight points,” Cummins said. “We can’t keep playing the same way. Could we stay with them if we kept doing the same thing? Yeah, but I’m not trying to just stay in the game; I’m trying to win, so you’ve got to change things up going into the fourth quarter to see if it works.”
Kirtland hosts Wickliffe on Monday and need a win to clinch a share of the CVC Valley Division title. Cardinal travels to Fairport Harding on Monday looking to avenge an earlier season loss to the Skippers.
“That’s a little redemption for us,” Cummins said. “We have three games next week so at this point in the season what I am stressing is we’re playing well. Keep it up and compete every play, not just one quarter or the fourth quarter, compete the whole game.”