Kirtland erased a double-digit fourth quarter deficit to pull out a 61-57 win over Lutheran East on Monday.
Matt Grazia led the Hornets with 17 points while Evan Madden, Jacob Boyd and Tommy Loncar all scored in double figures for the Hornets.
“When their backs are against the wall they just find a way,” said Kirtland coach Nick Gallo. “Sometimes you’ve just got to put the clipboard down, run the stuff and let Matty be a general out there and make a play.”
Lutheran East jumped out to a 20-11 first quarter lead but led by just three at halftime. The Falcons used an early third quarter run to build a 51-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“When we came out at halftime we preached about getting the ball inside,” Gallo said. “We didn’t do that initially. We came out and took some really poor shots offensively and we didn’t attack the rim the way we discussed. We had a huge height advantage with Evan, Cole (DiFabio) and Tommy and we just took some very ill-advised shots coming out of the gate, which extended the lead.”
The Hornets didn’t hang their heads.
They rallied behind Grazia.
“(Grazia) has been so solid. He’s been incredible for us,” Gallo said. “Tonight we put the ball in his hands throughout the basketball game. They were blitzing the ball screens and doing some things to bother him and in the fourth quarter he found the guys driving to the rim and made play after play for us.”
Boyd, who has scored in double figures in five of his last six games, stepped up again in the clutch when he converted an and-one down the stretch.
“Jacob Boyd has been playing some great minutes for us,” Gallo said. “He was a little hesitant at the rim because I think their speed and their quickness may have bothered him a little bit but he slowed down. I told the guys just to relax; it’s a different pace that we’re playing at. I think we showed a little better composure down the stretch and made them play a little bit hurried fashion instead of them speeding us up. I think Jacob did a great job of going to the rim with strength and using that strength to make plays.”
With a key conference game at Berkshire on Friday, Gallo believes his team found itself in a trap game against the Falcons.
With the win out of the way he’s looking forward to the chance to clinch the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title, which would sweeten Kirtland’s resume heading into Sunday’s postseason seeding meeting.
“It was a good team win tonight, a huge one going into Berkshire,” he said. “I think with that game looming on Friday this was a little bit of a trap game for us. That’s going to determine who wins the league. I think playing this game on a Monday after a couple of days off it was tough for us. To come out with this win right before the seeding meeting is big.”
Kirtland improved to 11-6 overall and is 6-4 in the CVC. Berkshire holds a 5-5 conference mark with a win over the Hornets.