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KIRTLAND—Kirtland’s on-again, off-again season has had a negative effect on the Hornets and their ability to score consistently.

Fortunately, the Hornets hang their hats on their ability to play defense and that led to a 34-30 win over visiting Lutheran West on Monday.

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“We are always a defensive-minded team and I think you can ask anyone who has played our full-court pressure, it definitely gets in your head and you make mistakes and we knew that they’re a little bit younger with playing for the most part,” said Kirtland coach Brittany Zele. “From scouting, we saw that they struggled with that full-court pressure, lot of passes that went out of bounds. We may not have gotten a lot of steals or deflections, but we forced them to throw it out of bounds.”

The Hornets, who returned from a second pause on Saturday, struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end.

While the Hornets led at halftime, 23-10, their offense most was the result of turnovers and transition baskets.

“I think they did a much better job than our first game,” Zele said. “I think our full-court pressure has improved immensely. It’s just kind of getting that communication piece now and hitting those transition, easy baskets, and knowing when to not go into chaos mode and pull it back. I think they did, overall, a really good job today.”

The Hornets celebrated Senior Night and it was a pair of 12th graders that led the way on the offensive end.

Leah LaVerde and Haley Coso both scored nine points to pace the Hornets.

“They’ve been leaders from the time I’ve entered into Kirtland,” Zele said. “It was really nice to see them both hit nine points. I think there is a different energy about both of them; there is definitely some fire there. They know it’s coming to the end of our season so I think everything is coming to the forefront with, ‘Hey, I’m coming close to the end of my senior year for basketball.’ Definitely, I think there was more energy today for that.”

Kirtland held a 32-17 advantage heading into the fourth quarter but the Longhorns made one final run and outscored the Hornets in the final eight minutes, 13-2.

Lutheran West’s Hope Kiraly scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, but Kirtland held off the Longhorns down the stretch.

Reilly Greenlee contributed to the win with seven points, Macy McIntosh added six and Marisa Carmosino finished with three.

Kirtland improved to 10-3 on the year with two stiff tests remaining in the regular season. It’s those challenging games that Zele hopes will better prepare the Hornets for the playoffs.

“What’s nice is we have a tough schedule,” Zele said. “We had Lutheran West today and then we play Chagrin Falls on Wednesday and then Cuyahoga Heights on Saturday. In my opinion, you want to end on a strong schedule and I think this is what’s going to prepare us for the tournament. We’ll find our flow. We’ve been inconsistent at times but overall, I think we’re going to show up just like we did at the end of the game. We came when we needed to. We just need that full 32 minutes once we hit the tournament.”

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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.