Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Unlikely hero emerges for Independence in win over Hawken

An unlikely hero emerged in Independence’s 46-44 win over visiting Hawken on Monday.

Freshman Amy Ksiazka played three quarters in the JV game then made the most of her appearance in the second half of the varsity contest.

“The biggest turning point, we were down by seven early in the third quarter and we put Amy Ksiazka in, a freshman,” said Independence coach Mike Marcinko. “She had one quarter left but she’s such a good defender and an athlete. We kind of went offense-defense throughout the third quarter and picked up in a couple of different presses and it really flustered them and turned them over. We went from being down to being up at the end of the quarter. Her minutes were done by then but she set the tone and now we’re confident and playing with the lead. I can’t say enough about Amy’s effort in the third quarter. She turned the game around for us.”

Ksiazka didn’t score but she did help the Blue Devils shut down the Hawks in the quarter.

“We’ve thrown her in there before to pick up the pace because she can hang with anybody and she can turn a ball handlers three times before they get to midcourt,” Marcinko said. “I can’t say enough about her. I know in the locker room the girls praised the heck out of her. She didn’t score a point but she is the one who turned the game around in our favor.”

Independence’s leading scorers, Megan Kuczmarski and Hallie Zumack, did their thing on the offensive end to lead the Blue Devils to victory.

Kuczmarski led all scorers with 21 while Zumack pitched in with 15.

“She was doing a very good job of coming through the weak side to the ball,” Marcinko said of Kuczmarski. “She picks a side she likes and waits there and then seals. As the ball is being reversed she steps in the lane and seals the girls. That way by the time it gets to her side of the floor she is sitting where she wants to and gets the ball deep in the post, so it’s a catch and shoot. There really isn’t a move.”

Independence’s guards made sure Kuczmarski got her scoring opportunities.

Mia Coudriet, who finished with three points, Anna Massey, Hannah Walker and Zumack all contributed to Kuczmarski’s big night.

“Mia, Hallie, Anna and Hannah all did a good job of entering the ball correctly in the right side to her allowing her to score,” Marcinko said. “She worked her tail off but she benefitted from the girls doing their job swinging the ball around getting it to her.”

The game was tied at 19-19 after the first two quarters and the Blue Devils led, 35-34, after the third. Independence edged Hawken by a point in the fourth quarter to seal their win.

Credit Zumack for keeping the Blue Devils on point in the fourth quarter.

“Typical Hal with her leadership and her hustle,” Marcinko said. “She’s talking to kids in the time outs and getting us in and out of some pressure defenses. Her and Anna Massey are running the show, getting us in and out of stuff. The biggest thing to that didn’t show up in the box score is Hallie did a lot of ball handling for us because they really pressured the point guard so they forced other people to handle the ball. Putting the ball in Hallie’s hands is fine with us. “

The Blue Devils improved to 9-8 overall and 6-5 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division. Independence hosts Fairport Harding on Wednesday then travels to Kirtland on Saturday.

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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