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    Girls Basketball Preview: Kirtland Hornets

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    The graduation of four senior starters leaves Kirtland’s girls’ basketball team with some big shoes to fill heading into the 2023-2024 season.

    Fortunately, the Hornets aren’t short on talent or experience with two players returning with some starting experience and four others who gained valuable playing time last winter.

    “We are excited about the new challenges we face after losing four amazing seniors,” said second-year head coach Matt Ridgeway, who previously coached the boys team at Kirtland. “Brynn Bradac, Jaden Attinato, and Paige Dolovacky will be our seniors that we rely on heavily, as well as underclassmen Emily Ridgeway, Kennedy Boyd, Addison Fleming, Kelsey Sayle, Clare Davidson, and Lauren Palagyi. The unknown is how we will jell, and when we will become more confident individually and as a team. The greatest asset that these kids possess so far is that they compete while having fun doing it and are extremely coachable.”

    Kirtland finished 15-9 overall and 7-1 in league play to split the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title with rival Berkshire.

    Ridgeway will lean on his team’s overall athleticism to set the tone for the season and to help the squad overcome its relative youth at the varsity level.

    “We plan to use the athletes that we have and try to put them in successful spots on the floor,” he said. “Many of these kids played volleyball or soccer so they know what it takes to compete. Our strength is in our numbers and unselfish play. The challenges that we will face will be our youth. We will need to learn from our mistakes, flush them, and move on to the next play. That often requires experience.”

    Emily Ridgeway and Boyd return this season after earning all-conference honors last season.

    Ridgeway, a 5-foot-11 guard, was a first-team All-CVC selection after dropping 10.2 points per game and Boyd earned honorable mention honors. Boyd, a 5-foot-5 guard, scored 2.7 points per game as a sophomore.

    “Emily was our leading scorer last year and has two years of experience under her belt. Emily will be relied upon heavily to lead this team as she enters her junior year. Emily loves the game, works on her game, and can play any position on the floor,” Coach Ridgeway said. “Kennedy is extremely athletic, fast, and an amazing defender. Kennedy can bring the passion that is infectious to the rest of the team. Every good team has a player like that and that is Kennedy’s gift.”

    Bradac is the lone senior in the projected starting lineup.

    The 5-foot-9 guard/forward averaged 1.7 points per game last winter.

    “Brynn has taken on a leadership role in practice so far,” Ridgeway said. “To be honest, I couldn’t be more impressed with her willingness to lead. Brynn is someone who everyone respects because of the joy she brings to others, at the same time putting her nose to the grindstone.”

    Juniors Kristiana Katic and Addison Fleming round out the projected starting five.

    Katic is a 5-foot-11 forward who averaged 4.8 points per game last season and will be counted on to provide matchup problems in the paint. Fleming is a 5-foot-9 guard who saw varsity action later in the season and could provide the Hornets with another dangerous ballhandler who can drive to the hoop and distribute the ball in traffic.

    “Kristiana really was a surprise for us last year with her production. Kristiana works extremely hard and is ultra-competitive. It is exciting to watch her play because of those intangible qualities,” Ridgeway said. “Addi got a little taste at the end of the year with some varsity time because of her drive to compete. Addi is competitive, a good ball handler, and a great defender. We are excited to watch her play this year.”

    The Hornets have two seniors, two juniors, and a sophomore providing depth.

    Seniors Paige Dolovacky, a 5-foot-9 guard, and Jaden Attinato, a 5-foot-5 guard, will be counted on to help provide senior leadership and produce on the court when called upon.

    “Paige has been a pleasant surprise throughout camp. Her ability to defend and anticipate will help our team greatly as the year goes on. We are really looking forward to what Paige will bring to the table,” Ridgeway said. “Jaden is a good shooter, athletic, and really wants this year to be great. Jaden has been a good leader at practice, and we are so happy for her to take this role on.”

    Juniors Clare Davidson, a 5-foot-4 guard, and Kelsey Sayle, a 5-foot-9 guard, and sophomore Lauren Palagyi, a 5-foot-10 forward, balance out the varsity roster.

    “Clare will be right in the mix for plenty of playing time. Clare has been a joy to coach, works hard, stays after practice, and does it all with a smile. We are so pumped to have Clare on our sideline this season,” Ridgeway said. “Kelsey has been working really hard at her craft and has been a tremendous teammate. Kelsey has the potential to become a really good shooter by the end of her high school career. Lauren is extremely athletic, very physical, smart, and a great listener. Lauren is another one who stays after practice to work on her skills daily. It’s impressive to see that kind of drive.”

    Kirtland’s goals this season hinge on the Hornets’ ability to consistently defend well, take care of the basketball, and find success at the free throw line.

     

    Steve Hare
    Steve Harehttps://www.ohiovarsity.com
    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.

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