Monday, September 26, 2022

Redskins wrap up tournament win

Cuyahoga Heights beat rival Independence on Thursday then closed out the Joe LaBella Tournament with a 75-42 win over Hawken on Friday to win the tournament championship.

“Joe LaBella was such a big part of both communities,” Cuyahoga Heights coach Michael Tartara said. “Independence and Cuyahoga Heights were both blessed to have Coach LaBella as a part of their schools. The excitement of winning the tournament is only a small part of what it means to us at Cuyahoga Heights; his memory is our primary focus. Winning the tournament is a product of keeping Coach in our thoughts each year that we play in this tournament. We have not won this in a few years, but each year the motivation is to play in a way that makes Coach’s family proud.”

The Redskins rallied back from a double-digit deficit to beat the Blue Devils on Thursday and used that momentum to get off to a fast start against the Hawks on Friday.

“Independence is a quality team that plays very hard. We were down double digits in the second half and really needed to make plays on both ends of the floor,” Tartara said. “Fortunately for us, we were able to do just that. Our pressure defense was the difference. We decided to pick up today where we left off last night. It worked for us again tonight. “

Nassiem Salem scored a game-high 28 points against Independence and came back with a game-best 19 against the Hawks to earn the tournament’s MVP award.

“Nassiem is the hardest worker that we have seen in some time,” Tartara said. “He is the definition of a gym rat. He strives to be a good person and make his mother proud. He loves to compete on both ends of the floor and is fearless. He sets his teammates up, he rebounds well for a guard, and he can and will score the basketball. Nas took charges both nights and is a complete player and teammate.”

Sam Shafer and Ryan Selig both scored in double figures against the Hawks with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Selig also was named to the all-tournament team and Shafer was 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point line in the first quarter to help the Redskins build a 27-6 lead.

Ten different Cuyahoga Heights players scored in the game.

“We had a good shooting night overall with 13 made 3s spread throughout the team,” Tartara said. “I could go right down the line with many different kids playing key roles over the past two nights at Independence. We need to continue to improve as we move into 2019.”

Michael Snyder scored 17 points to lead the Hawks.

Cuyahoga Heights improved to 5-2 on the year while Hawken dropped to 3-7.

The Redskins were excited to finish the tournament 2-0 but being a part of the event that rekindles Coach LaBella’s memory always means more than the results on the court.

“I would like to thank Kristy LaBella, (Joe’s daughter) for being at the game to hand out the trophies. It is great to have family there,” Tartara said. “Everyone involved in the tournament sends best wishes to Marian (Joe’s widow), Lisa (Joe’s daughter) and Sean and the grandkids (Julia, Nathan, Joey, Matty and Anna). Also, we have a scholarship in Coach’s honor. Each year the family picks one or two students from both Cuyahoga Heights and Independence. The Joe LaBella Scholarship is another way that we keep Coach’s spirit alive. It means a lot to anyone that knew him.”

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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