Monday night games are never easy to play especially when they fall in the middle of the season on a cold wintery day when the players have their minds on exams, spring break and other typical high school issues.
That’s why Independence head coach Mike Marcinko was so relieved when his players pulled out a 46-42 win over visiting Columbia.
“We said after the game we survived,” Marcinko said. “We got it together enough to survive and now move on and prep for the next game.”
Independence, which improved to 6-5 overall, led 11-9 after the first quarter but found itself down, 20-17, at halftime.
Columbia’s Alison Schafer scored 14 of her game-high 22 points in the first half.
“I don’t think either team had their A game on. It was really a matter of survival,” Marcinko said. “I know that’s what we talked about at halftime is this is going to come down to who is going to play tougher and do the little things because nobody is shooting it well and nobody was playing overly well. It was going to come down to getting on the floor for loose balls, digging in there and rebounding, getting in a stance and defending because I don’t think either team had their A game going.”
The Blue Devils accepted that challenge and outscored the Raiders, 17-10, in the third quarter to take a 34-30 lead into the final eight minutes.
Behind Nicole Ferrara, who scored five points, the Blue Devils found a way to shut down Schafer to keep the Raiders at bay the rest of the way.
“The challenge was to come out in the second half and dig in and play like we’ve been playing and raise our level to where it was the week before and they did. We came out in the third quarter and put up 17. We did a little bit better job of defending,” Marcinko said. “Shaffer, who is their best shooter, had the bulk of her points in the first half. We held her to eight in the second half, which was very good because she gets a lot of shots. Everything runs through her.”
Ferrara and her teammates stepped up on defense and did more than survive.
“I know we fatigued Nicole because she chased that girl all around the half court,” Marcinko said. “Again, the team helped her as well on screens and everything else but she had a rough job all night of defending and playing our point guard and ball handler. She had to take their best player and handle her. She did a heck of a job for us.”
Halle Dorko led the Blue Devils with 18 points and Hallie Zumack added 13. Nearly half of their combined 31 points came from the foul line.
“They took care of business, not necessarily in field goals but in attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line,” Marcinko said. “Between the two of them in the second half, Hallie Zumack was 5-of-6 from the line in the second half and Dorko shot 10 free throws and made seven in the second half, we took it to heart attacking the rim. Those two scored a boatload of points at the free throw line because they would attack and get hammered. They were doing what they were supposed to do.”
The Blue Devils travel to Hawken on Wednesday hoping to win their first Chagrin Valley Conference game.
Independence has alternated wins and losses all season long and on Wednesday the Blue Devils will try to snap that streak by adding back-to-back wins for the first time this year.
“Hopefully we can break it,” Marcinko said of the streak. “I think part of it was just the way the schedule fell and the way some of the teams that were presented to us were tall orders after games we definitely felt we could compete in. We had hoped that we could get an upset along the way in the front half of the season and it didn’t quite pan out. Hopefully in the back half of the season we’ll be able to get somebody. We’re not far off. I think the difference between the front half of the year and the middle part of this year is now that instead of just one or two scoring we’re getting that three to four people scoring. Hopefully that will get us over the hump.”