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CHARDON—Despite the margin of victory, Chardon had to work for its 59-24 nonconference win over visiting Kirtland on Monday.

The Hilltoppers adjusted to Kirtland’s aggressive defense and pulled away from the Hornets in the third quarter.

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“We were a little sloppy with the ball but I’ve got to give Kirtland credit,” said Chardon coach Cullen Harris. “Coach does a great job with them. You could tell they’re athletes and they compete and play hard and fly all around. That gave us a hard time at times because we let them speed us up. We had some rough points but overall the kids played well.”

The Hilltoppers, who improved to 5-2, battled in the paint and took away second and third-chance opportunities from the Hornets.

That helped Chardon build a 27-13 halftime lead but the Hilltoppers saved their best for the third quarter.

“We did what we had to do,” Harris said of his team’s first-half performance. “We finished possessions and rebounded the basketball. There are definitely some things to grow on but that’s a nice team to play against. They play hard and they may be the most athletic team we’ve seen so far. That’s a good group.”

Chardon outscored Kirtland in the third quarter, 18-4, to seal the win.

“At halftime, we talked about it. That team is full of kids who won a soccer state title and they’re athletes and know what it takes to complete,” Harris said. “They’re going to fight and they come out and compete. We had to match their energy and effort level and I thought at times we didn’t and it showed.”

Emily Noerr led the Hilltoppers with a game-high 14 points. She was equally effective on the defensive end.

“I thought Emily played well when she plays within herself,” Harris said. “She’s young, so she still has a tendency to get sped up a little bit. When she takes a deep breath and slows it down, she can do a little bit of everything. What I like about Emily, shots going in or not, the effort doesn’t go down on the defensive end. Sometimes with young kids, it’s ‘if I score, I play hard and if I don’t, I don’t.’ That doesn’t happen with her, which is great to see.”

Kayla Noerr also scored in double figures with 11 points and Ashley Hoenigman pitched in with eight.

Sam Liechty, one of Chardon’s top scorers, was limited to just seven points and Jo Janda added six.

“Kayla played great inside and made some layups and ran the floor,” Harris said. “It’s one of those nights where somebody else stepped up and we had contributions from other kids. Sammie didn’t have her usual night but they kind of packed it in and took that away from her. We’ll keep working at it and keep getting better. That’s sort of our team’s MO, which is to be able to go in and out and have five kids who can score.”

Haley Coso led Kirtland with 10 points.

The Hornets dropped to 2-1 with the loss but they’ll be better served in the future after having played a competitive game against the Hilltoppers.

“Chardon is a talented team, which is why we wanted to make sure we kept them on our schedule after our delayed start,” said Kirtland coach Brittany Zele. “This shows that mentally we need to get stronger in certain areas because we are not used to teams coming out and scoring so quickly and accurately against our defense.”

Despite the setback, the Hornets will be better prepared in the future after playing such a talented team.

“Our main goal in our season is our tournament run,” Zele said. “Playing teams like Chardon, regardless of losing and not playing well, is only going to prepare us for the postseason. The girls are competitors. I don’t think you’re going to see a loss like this for the rest of the season.”

Marissa Carmosino scored all seven of her points for the Hornets in the fourth quarter.

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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.