Friday, September 22, 2023

Spartans down Hornets to clinch Valley Division title

KIRTLAND–Gbolahan Adio scored a game-high 17 points and Curtis Houston added 16 to lead Richmond Heights to a 63-52 win at Kirtland in front of a standing room only crowd on Friday.

The Spartans may have flinched early on at the added pressure of playing in front of a raucous crowd as the score was deadlocked at halftime, 26-26, but Richmond Heights was up to the challenge and pulled away in the second half to seal their second straight Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division championship.

“You’re going to have games like this,” Richmond Heights coach Quentin Rogers said. “That’s a team with seniors, that’s a team that’s won a state title in another sport, so you know when you come here you’re going to have to fight. They’re not going to just hand you anything.”

With games at Lorain, at Benedictine and at Toledo Rogers under their belts, the Spartans were prepared for the intensity and atmosphere at Kirtland.

“That’s why when I set the schedule up we played the teams we played,” Rogers said. “They played against some of the best teams in the state for their opening nights and for just a regular night. They were kind of used to dealing with crowds. I was real proud that they kept their composure. That’s one of the reasons I had set that schedule up, to have one of the schedules I believe was probably one of the top most difficult ones in Northeast Ohio.”

Unlike in the first meeting between Richmond Heights and Kirtland on Jan. 26—a 74-53 Spartans win—the Hornets weren’t intimidated or outplayed by the defending league champs.

“I think our kids just got used to the speed of the game in the beginning,” Kirtland coach Shawn McGregor said. “In the first game, we got down in the first quarter and then we kind of played them even in the next three quarters and it got extended a little bit in the fourth. Today, I think we matched the pace of the game from the beginning. We matched the athleticism and the physicality. We were ready to go.”

The Hornets led 17-14 after the first quarter but settled for a tie at halftime.

Richmond Heights used a 7-3 run to take a 33-27 lead early in the third quarter but the Hornets responded with a 14-2 run to build a 41-35 lead midway through the period.

That’s when the Spartans stepped up and took control of the game.

They closed the third on a 9-0 run then maintained their composure and the lead for the rest of the contest.

“What I was proud of was the discipline and the focus down the stretch,” Rogers said.

Richmond Heights converted on 11-of-15 free throws in the second half while the Hornets were 8-of-16 in the final 16 minutes and just 6-of-14 in the fourth quarter.

“I think we just got gassed at the end and missed a couple of free throws and missed a couple of open 3s,” McGregor said. “You have to make shots like that in order to win those games but I’m very proud of our kids. They competed and that’s all you can really ask for. As long as they play hard I’m proud of them and I think they did that tonight.”

Domenic Capretta led Kirtland with 12 points while Adam Mueller also scored in double figures with 11.

Richmond Heights improved to 15-5 overall and 13-0 in the Valley Division. Kirtland dropped to 12-2, 9-2.

Richmond Heights 63, Kirtland 52

Richmond Heights (15-5, 13-0 CVC): Houston 16, Jones 4, Adio 17, Maxie 2, Talbert 9, Carter 8

Kirtland (12-2, 10-2 CVC): Capretta 12, Mueller 11, Cosgrove 6, Powers 4, Samsa 2, Bottesch 2, Camino 2, McGill 6, Bailey 7

Richmond Hts. 14 12 18 19 — 63

Kirtland 17 9 15 11 — 52

Free throws: Richmond Heights 14 of 22, Kirtland 12 of 24; 3-pointers: Richmond Heights 8 (Adio 4, Houston 3, Talbert), Kirtland 2 (Mueller, Capretta)

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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