GENEVA—Injuries and illness have depleted Kirtland’s already small roster and despite losing another starter early in their game at Geneva on Saturday, the Hornets held on to beat the Eagles, 39-33.
Kirtland opened the game with just five healthy varsity players but lost one after an ankle injury late in the first quarter. Geneva cut its deficit to 21-13 at the break and pulled to within 25-23 early in the third before another Kirtland run pushed the lead back to double digits.
“I think if you were to watch a game and see that only five varsity players were playing you would think eventually they would tire out and give up,” said Kirtland coach Brittany Zele, who collected her first coaching victory against her alma mater. “That’s not the case with Kirtland. They are so tough, mentally and physically. To be able to get through this game and come out on top, they are becoming tournament ready.”
Kirtland’s Corinne Greenlee found her groove early as she scored six of her 10 points in the first half. Haley Coso took over in the second half as she scored 12 of her game-high 17 in the final 16 minutes.
“Corinne has completely changed her mindset and is starting to see herself as a threat and I love it,” Zele said. “Haley has been our constant for a while now. I can see the intensity in her every game. When I ask if she wants a break, she tells me no with zero hesitation. She knows she is a leader and a focal point for us.”
Amalie Gettig contributed to the win with eight points and Reilly Greenlee added four.
Overall, the Hornets found it tough to penetrate Geneva’s defense. That forced the Hornets to work harder than normal to get the layups and open looks they prefer.
“Geneva was so aggressive on defense that it made us play even faster than what we usually do,” Zele said. “This allowed us to get great looks back door or transition points, which is what we are always looking to get. I thought this was a good experience against some of the best full-court, man defense we have seen all year.”
Kirtland’s defense was equally effective.
Geneva managed just one 3-pointer in the first quarter before Jordyn Jamison hit back to back 3s in the second to go along with the four free throws the Eagles hit in the period.
The Eagles didn’t hit a 2-point field goal until midway through the third quarter.
“We haven’t been playing well the last few games and it’s just something that happens when you have a very, very young team,” said Geneva coach Mike Hassett. “We picked it up in the second half.”
Jamison led the Eagles with 12 points. She hit the two 3s in the second quarter and then worked her way inside in the second half and ended up with two layups and a pair of free throws.
“She played a lot better in the second half than she did in the first and that started with her defense,” Hassett said. “She started getting on and up on her man and moving to the ball and helping out and she created a lot of turnovers for us. She gave us a spark that helped and it picked everyone else up too.”
Kassie Emmett scored all six of her points in the second half and Sydney Sorber finished the game with five points. She drained a 3-pointer in the first quarter to score Geneva’s only points in the opening frame.
Brooke Richmond finished with four and Delaney Marrison, Gabbi Selman, and Olivia Wilms each finished with two points.
“I was very happy with how we played in the second half,” Hassett said. “We played very good defense and we created points off of our defense and that’s what we have to do because we are very young. The girls struggle to shoot the ball and we work hard on that but it takes time, especially in this shortened COVID season.”
Kirtland improved to 8-3 on the year while Geneva dropped to 2-5.