CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS—Despite trailing by 15 at halftime, Independence made a second half run but came up a bit short in a 43-40 loss at rival Cuyahoga Heights on Saturday.
The Blue Devils outscored the Redskins in the second half, 25-13.
“We messed it up in the first half,” said Independence coach Mike Marcinko. “I thought we got outworked in the first half. They executed and outworked us and we got behind by too many.”
Independence scored the first five points of the game but back-to-back 3-pointers gave the Redskins a 6-5 lead. They led, 14-10, after the first quarter and used a 14-0 run to create some space midway through the second.
Cuyahoga Heights hit seven 3-pointers in the first half including one from senior Emma Lipkowski, who broke the school record with 115 3s in her career.
“They shoot a lot of 3s so we’ve got to box out at the 3-point line,” Marcinko said. “We don’t box out. How many times did we watch the ball go over our head? They shot it well. Some of the 3s they threw in, we had a hand in their face. You applaud those and move on. The ones that are aggravating are when you don’t close out or you don’t close out with a hand in their face. Those are basics from day one.”
Independence tightened up on defense in the second half and didn’t allow the Redskins to convert from behind the 3-point line.
A pressure defense helped the Blue Devils score the first seven points of the third quarter, but the Redskins adjusted and did enough to hold off Independence down the stretch.
“They’re smart and (Cuyahoga Heights coach) Al Martin does a great job,” Marcinko said. “We pressed real quick in the beginning of the third quarter and we got four or five possessions and that’s the extent of it because they figure it out. We had to go to other traps. It was a chess match the whole time, but you’ve got to convert. There were times we got good looks and we either didn’t make a putback or didn’t make a layup.”
Brooke Wilson led Cuyahoga Heights with a game-high 17 points. Haylee Dmitruk led the Blue Devils with 13 while Riccela DiGeronimo also scored in double figures with 10.
Cuyahoga Heights improved to 9-3 overall and 6-1 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division while Independence dropped to 7-5, 3-3.
Independence returns to action next Saturday in a home game against Richmond Heights.
“We’ve got to look inward,” Marcinko said. “We’ve got to perform. If the play calls for you to set a cross-screen, set a cross-screen. We’ve got a week between games to self-assess and get better. We’ve got seven or eight games left; it goes quick and the season is slipping away. How badly do they want to get this done?”