Monday, May 20

    Crooks, Jatsek lead Independence to second straight win

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    Sam Crooks and Landon Jatsek combined for 54 points in Independence’s 83-69 non-conference win over visiting Fuchs Mizrachi on Tuesday.

    With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 5-5 overall and won a second straight game.

    “We were worried about this game for a while because that is a well-coached team,” said Independence coach Marc Holliday of Fuchs Mizrachi. “They know what they’re doing over there and they play their defensive game plan to the tee.”

    It didn’t take long for the Blue Devils to make the necessary adjustments.

    Crooks scored nine of his team-high 28 in the first quarter while Jatsek added nine of his 26 in the opening frame as the Blue Devils built an early 24-19 lead.

    “We had some nice high-low action with Sam and Landon that worked really well for us,” Holliday said. “They’re really good at finding each other, especially when they seal and move off ball and cut off each other. Between that and Noah (Terrano) spreading the floor by hitting a couple of three-balls, Rocco (Ressler) crashing the board, and Matty (Jirmasek) running the show and getting assists, and playing really good defense, we played really well.”

    Crooks added eight points on two 3-pointers in the second quarter and continued to score throughout the second half.

    “Coach Holliday is a great game planner,” Crooks said. “Our sets and plays work to our strengths and that’s what we did tonight. We followed coach’s plan.”

    Independence’s offensive success was the result of the Blue Devils sticking to that game plan and turning a good shot into a great one.

    “Our team talks about going good to great,” Crooks said. “Part of that means making an extra pass and looking to one more player. I benefited from my teammates early and just kept looking for one another.”

    Terrano closed out the game with nine points on three 3-pointers, Ressler scored eight, Joey Jirmasek added four, Matty Jirmasek and Wyatt Snyder both scored three points, and Stephen Mlynarczyk finished with two.

    The Blue Devils already have won one more game than they did last season, and even their losses have been competitive.

    Their five losses have been by a combined 23 points.

    “We’re definitely making strides in the right direction,” Holliday said. “We’re right there. Every game has been competitive, and quite honestly, we could be sitting at 10-0 right now, and I truly believe that. At 5-5, we’re back to .500 and we’ve got a big game Friday at Trinity, a team that came in here and we let one get away. We’re excited about that opportunity on Friday and hope to get above .500 and get another conference win.”

    The Blue Devils have grown up a lot this season and if more success could follow if that progress continues.

    “The first few games that we lost, we failed to put games away,” Crooks said. “At Fairview, we closed out the game. Tonight, we closed out the game. If we keep closing our games, staying out of foul trouble, and following coach’s plan, the second half will be real fun.”


    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, 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, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the 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.

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