PEPPER PIKE—Lindsey Nichols and Danni McCartney both scored in double figures to lead Chardon to a 48-40 win over Kirtland in the final game of the Ohio Varsity Tip-Off Classic at Ursuline College on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers handed the Hornets their first rregular-seasonloss since the 2016-2017 season.
“We knew we had a little bit of an advantage in terms of size and depth so we tried to pound the ball inside and tried to get inside to take it to them,” Chardon coach Cullen Harris said. “I knew foul trouble could get them in a lot of trouble. Unfortunately, we did what we wanted to but we shot 51-percent from the free throw line and they played a little zone, that kind of threw us off of our game but they’re a really well-coached team and they play hard. We were fortunate to come away with the win tonight.”
Chardon jumped out to a 16-5 lead before the Hornets slowly pulled to within 21-15 at halftime and 32-28 after three quarters of play.
The Kirtland pressure defense helped the Hornets slow down the Chardon offensive attack.
Nichols scored 12 points to lead the Hilltoppers but her effort in breaking the Kirtland press was even more important.
“(Nichols is) a four-year starter at point guard who can handle pressure and brings a nice calming influence,” Harris said. “It always helps when she’s your best free throw shooter too and can step to the line in the fourth quarter and make those. It’s a team effort. Lindsey is our primary ball handler but we certainly have five kids on the floor most times who can handle the ball and help handle pressure so that helps us alleviate some of those concerns.”
The Hilltoppers hit their free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“They caught us off-guard a couple of times when we tried to make a home run play and they punished us,” Harris said of the Hornets. “Again, they’re a well-coached team. They play hard, they’re fundamental and disciplined, so I’m happy with how we executed down the stretch and got out with the win.”
McCartney pitched in with 10 points for the Hilltoppers while Kayle Noerr and Tori Butala both finished with eight.
Chardon held a 46-31 advantage on the glass.
Kirtland struggled to match Chardon in the paint both because of the Hilltoppers’ size advantage but also due to a lack of court time in the preseason.
Both of Kirtland’s top rebounders—Jenna Sayle and Lauren Lutz—missed most of the preseason due to the girls’ soccer team reaching the state championship game for the second straight season.
“Being our first game, we’ve got a lot of players that are just coming off of soccer,” Kirtland coach Bob Bell said. “They had a very successful soccer season. We literally have a few starters who have had one or two or three practices.”
Bell opened the game with his team in a half-court man defense. He switched to a half-court trap and increased the pressure on the Hilltoppers.
“We were hoping they wouldn’t hit too many shots from the outside,” Bell said. “That improved the game for us. We played a lot better and the defense was starting to slow them down. What we just needed to do, we needed to generate some offense. We would have been in pretty good shape.”
As the game progressed, the Hornets settled in and outscored the Hilltoppers 23-16 in the second and third quarters.
“Hustle-wise, I was very pleased with how the girls played,” Bell said. “Defensively, we made a few small defensive mistakes. It really comes down to putting the ball in the basket and that will come as we progress. We have a week to get ready for our next game so we’ll be able to iron out some of those offensive issues.”
Lauren Snyder scored a game-high 13 points to lead Kirtland. Sayle added nine points and Lutz finished with five and a team-high eight rebounds.
Haley Adams contributed to this story.
Chardon 48, Kirtland 40
Kirtland (0-1): Snyder 13, Sayle 9, Lutz 5, Yurick 4, Camino 4, Wolfe 2, Greenlee 2
Chardon (1-0): Nichols 12, McCartney 10, Noerr 8, Butala 8, Feller 4, Liechty 4, Pastor 2
Kirtland 5 10 13 12 – 40
Chardon 16 5 11 16 – 48
Field goals: Kirtland 13/54, Chardon 15/42 Free throws: Kirtland 11/19, Chardon 17/32; 3-pointers: Kirtland 3 (Snyder 3), Chardon 1 (Butala); Rebounds: Kirtland 31, Chardon 46