INDEPENDENCE—Independence relied on a tried and true method to beat visiting Hawken on Saturday, 65-54.

The Blue Devils played an aggressive defensive style that both kept the Hawks from finding their rhythm and led to an impressive offensive performance as they extended their winning streak to three games.


“I thought that defensively, all weekend, starting with last night against Trinity to tonight, the intensity from the opening tip to the end, as a coach, you cannot ask for anything more,” said Independence assistant coach Marc Holliday. “We had five guys laying their bodies on the ground at all times for every loose ball.”

It took Hawken nearly three minutes to break a scoreless tie in the opening quarter.

Once the Blue Devils started hitting their shots, the flood gates opened and five players scored nine or more points in the win.

Independence drained seven 3-pointers in the first half as it took a 32-23 lead into the break and the Blue Devils finished the game with 12 long-range shots.

“That’s what they were giving us,” Holliday said. “We even talked about that at half. I said, ‘I’m glad we’re hitting 3s but we’re not going to hit 3s all game so we’ve got to start getting to the basket more. I thought we did a concerted effort to do that more in the third and fourth quarters.”

Matt Richards led the Blue Devils with 16 points. He connected on four 3-pointers.

Casey McGhee scored 14, which included four 3s with three of them falling in the third quarter as the Hawks tried to mount a comeback. Kyle Zygmunt contributed with 13 points and Adam Miklovic and Eric Mitrisin both scored nine points.

That balanced scoring was the result of Independence’s effort on the defensive end.

“Since the start of last year, when coach (Kyle) Johnson and I came, our goal is our defense sets up our offense,” Holliday said. “We’ve got kids that are great in transition and the best way to get into transition is to get a defensive stop, get a rebound, an outlet and go. We’ve gotten really good at that. We were able to switch playing 50, 52, 12, 4, all of our defenses, bam, bam, bam, and we can only do that because we have kids that are smart, they have a high basketball IQ and they pay attention in practice. I’m super proud of everybody.”

Independence improved to 5-4 and will host rival Cuyahoga Heights on Tuesday.

Taj Caver led Hawken with a game-high 17 points and Shin Ng added nine for the Hawks.

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. 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.