Independence didn’t play a perfect game but the Blue Devils did enough to beat visiting Trinity, 41-35, in Saturday’s Division III sectional championship game at Independence Middle School.
The Blue Devils led 18-8 at halftime before allowing the Trojans to climb back into the game in the third quarter.
“It feels good but we didn’t play anywhere near where we like to but we survived and we advanced,” said Independence head coach Mike Marcinko. “We’re moving on. You can add sectional champs next to our name. The girls were gutty and got it done. It was not a very pretty game but we did what we had to do to win. We’ll take it.”
Independence, which improved to 15-9 on the year, got strong performances out of Halle Dorko, who led the Blue Devils with 17 points, and several others on both ends of the court.
Dorko, a senior who leads the team with 12.3 points per game, was especially excited to add a sectional title to her career resume.
“It feels amazing,” she said. “We've worked so hard and come such a long way this season and it's nice to be awarded the title.”
With every game in the postseason potentially being her last, Dorko is motivated to play her best.
“I was just very focused on playing well and getting the job done,” she said. “I drove to the rim with confidence and I think that state of mind gave me an advantage.”
Hallie Zumack pitched in with eight points while Nicole Ferrara scored seven and Victoria Sirna contributed with six, including a big three in the third quarter when Trinity went on an 8-0 run to climb back into the game.
“We didn’t score a ton in the third quarter, but I just remember Victoria just hitting a crucial three to stop the bleeding,” Marcinko said.
Independence had trouble finishing around the rim against Trinity’s size advantage inside.
“We executed extremely well but didn’t reward ourselves when we got to the rim,” Marcinko said. “We did a lot of dropping our eye line. As far as folks on the rim, I think we were worried about contact. Trinity has a big girl inside. I thought we got more consumed with getting contact or getting hit than we did the actual shot. We always preach you make the right play and force them to make an exceptional play. We weren’t making the normal play. We were making layups difficult. We were making post play difficult. We were making put backs difficult. Some of it was their doing but some of it was ours, trying to adjust our shot when we just needed to shoot the ball.”
In addition to her offensive output, Zumack kept Trinity’s post players in check.
“Zumack did a really good job on their big girl,” Marcinko said. “She’s every bit of 5-11, maybe 6-foot. She goes right hard and Hallie did just a great job of sliding her off with hands high and making her shoot over pressure. She didn’t hurt us as much as she could have.”
The Blue Devils move on to play No. 1 seed Gilmour Academy in a district semifinal on Tuesday at North Ridgeville High School. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:45 p.m.
Marcinko and his players know they’ll have to play at a much higher level to pull off the upset.
“When the whole thing started we had said the goal was to get to the Gilmour game. We could compete and win games but the goal was to get to the district semis and go face Gilmour,” Marcinko said. “Get there, play them hard and see what happens; play carefree, be aggressive and go see what happens. I think we’ll be loose. I think part of these two games is we’re not used to being in a position where we’re expected to win. I think we kind of felt it a little bit and now we’re going to be in the underdog role. Sometimes that can be an easier spot to be in because of the expectations. We expect to win, otherwise you don’t play, but we also know we’ve got to play close to a perfect game. We’ve got to knock down shots at a good rate. We’ve got to rebound and all the things that are essential to beat any team but now you’ve got to really get it done because they’re that good.”