It’s one thing to scout and prepare for a team like Villa Angela-St. Joseph.
It’s quite another thing to actually face the defending Division III state champions, particularly on the tile floor under the six title banners at Viking Village.
Kirtland played hard and was not intimidated, but too much speed, athleticism, pressure and heights proved to be far too much for the Hornets in an 86-55 loss to VASJ in a Division III sectional final on Feb. 26.
A fast-paced first quarter followed by a dominating 25-7 second quarter for the Vikings (18-5) was the beginning of the end for Kirtland, who finished the season at 15-9.
“You try to simulate certain things in practice to get ready to play a team like VASJ, but we don’t have a Jerry Higgins or a Sherman Dean to practice against. They have five athletes out on the floor at all times and they play very hard so that was tough for us to match up with,” Kirtland coach Nick Gallo said. “(VASJ coach) Babe (Kwasniak) does a great job of mixing things up and switching things on defense.
“This was a great opportunity to play a program like VASJ on their floor with all they have accomplished and we played them close to even in the second half. Our guys never quit, and I can not say enough about our seniors. We went to the sectional semis last year and the sectional championship game this year so hopefully we can keep building and grinding and getting better. This was a good experience for our guys.”
Gallo pointed out the contributions of Evan Madden, who scored six points in his final game in a Kirtland uniform. Palmer Capretta led the Hornets with 15.
Kirtland hit 15 of 16 foul shots and knocked down eight 3s on the night.
Freshman Alonzo Gaffney led all scorers with 18 points for the Vikings, who led by 26 at halftime and cruised to the victory.
VASJ will play Warrensville Heights on March 1 in a D-III district semi at Garfield Heights.
VASJ 86, Kirtland 55
Kirtland (15-8): Capretta 15, Samsa 11, Lewis 8, Davis 7, Madden 6, Allchin 3, DiFabio 3, Gabor 2
VASJ (17-5): Gaffney 18, Dean 15, McGarry 10, Roberts 8, Butler 7, Stauffer 5, Turk 4, Porter 3, Newlon 3, Lawler 3, Higgins 3, George 3, Bessick 2, Koppleman 2
Kirtland 15 7 17 16
VASJ 23 25 19 19
Free Throws: Kirtland: 15 of 16, VASJ 6 of 11, 3- Pointers: Kirtland 8 ( Capretta 2, Lewis 2, Allchin 1, Davis 1, Samsa 1, DiFabio 1) VASJ 8 (Dean 3, Gaffney 2, Porter 1, Newlon 1, Lawler 1)