Monday, February 6, 2023

Somodji sparks Kirtland in win at Independence

INDEPENDENCE—Taylor Somodji got hot at the right time to lead Kirtland to a 52-43 win at Independence on Wednesday.

Somodji scored 13 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Hornets came from behind to defeat the Blue Devils. She scored 19 points total in the final 16 minutes of play.

“That was a hard earned game,” said Kirtland coach Bob Bell. “We had to keep grinding away and playing good defense. We had to do what we could to check them when we could and we needed to generate a little bit of offense. We managed to pick it up a little bit, mostly in the fourth quarter.”

Kirtland wasn’t as sharp in the first half, partially due to Independence’s defensive effort. The  Blue Devils also found success on the offensive end in the early goings.

Megan Kuczmarski led Independence with 19 points while Hallie Zumack chipped in with 16.

“Independence had a nice game plan and they played well,” Bell said. “Their scorers scored. Kuczmarski and Zumack, they were a handful to stop. They’re good players.”

That duo helped Independence build a 24-23 lead at the break, despite many offensive miscues.

“We kind of cost ourselves in the first quarter,” said Independence coach Mike Marcinko. “We were down two at the quarter break and we had at least four unforced errors. No one around us, travel. No one around us, throw it away. We could have been up eight or 10. The three of us (coaches) are talking, ‘this isn’t going to fly. They’re too solid.’ We felt the same way at halftime. We told the girls we should be up, 32-23, roughly. We’re hurting ourselves. We have unforced errors. Nobody was playing awful but we came up with empty possessions. Against a solid team you can’t do that.”

That one point lead held until the fourth quarter when Somodji got hot. She scored all but four of Kirtland’s 17 fourth quarter points.

“We were just flat in the first half,” Bell said. “I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s because we only had one day to prepare for this team since Saturday because of the snow days. Sometimes a team will come out and they’ll be really sharp after a day off and sometimes it takes a little while.”

Sydney Snyder scored 10 points to help Kirtland’s cause and Claire Neibecker pitched in with five. Deanna Ponzani, Kerri Zalba and Jenna Sayle all recorded four points in the win.

“Our seniors were strong enough to pick it up and Sydney Snyder hit some big shots down the stretch. Those medium range jumpers, those were a big 10 points she gave us,” Bell said. “Claire Neibecker did great defensively and rebounding and Deanna Ponzani was the same way. She worked her tail off inside. Kerri Zalba did a nice job running things for us. She really came out to play. We need that from her. She always gives you a good defensive game and she rarely has a turnover. Some games she can generate more offense than others and tonight she was able to do that.”

Anna Massey scored four points and Jessica Dmitruk and Hannah Walker both had two for Independence.

“Megan and Hallie did their job,” Marcinko said of his two leading scorers. “They had 35 between them. Somebody has to stop up and contribute in big games. Against talented opponents, solid opponents, somebody has to step up and give us points.”

Kirtland improved to 13-2 overall and 8-1 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division. The Hornets host Cardinal on Saturday. Independence dropped to 8-8 overall and 5-5 in league play. The Blue Devils host Hawken 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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