Landon Jatsek scored a game-high 29 points in leading Independence to a 69-49 win at Crestwood on Friday.
“I was where I needed to be on the floor at all times,” Jatsek said of his big night. “In some possessions, I was able to get open and be the recipient of some great passes from my teammates. There were many opportunities for strong drives to the basket, which also put me at the free throw line a lot. This was a big game for offense in the key and under the basket.”
Jatsek converted on 8-of-12 free throw tries and drained one 3-pointer in the win, Independence’s second in its last three games.
Independence built an early double-digit lead and kept the Red Devils at arm’s length for most of the game.
Crestwood did make a run at the Blue Devils in the third quarter, but after learning the hard way how to hold a lead, Independence’s young team made key plays to fight off Crestwood and finished off the game strong on both ends of the court.
“We established a rhythm right away in the first quarter that was productive and seemed effortless,” Jatsek said. “We carried that through the first half and into the third quarter. When it seemed that the momentum was going to shift away from us, we upped the intensity of our play as a team, and this time we did not relent. We maintained that level of play throughout the remainder of the game.”
Jatsek scored seven first-quarter points to help Independence jump out to a 12-7 lead.
He then added nine more in both the second and third quarters.
Sam Crooks also scored seven of his 16 points in the first half and Joey Jirmasek added five of his seven in the first 16 minutes.
Crestwood threatened in the third but Matty Jirmasek came alive with seven of his nine points to help fight off the Red Devils.
The Blue Devils had been in that situation several times this season. They held an early lead but didn’t respond to their opponent’s second-half run.
That wasn’t the case on Friday.
“That’s huge for their development,” said Independence coach Marc Holliday. “The two words we preached all week were confidence and player. We have to be basketball players and we have to have confidence in our abilities, and I think they really took that to heart. We got an unusually large amount of shots, which I think helped, and they really implemented the game plan right from the get-go. When push came to shove, they did not fold this time, which tells me they are learning. That makes this long bus ride a lot easier.”
The Blue Devils outscored the Red Devils in the second half, 36-29.
Rocco Ressler and Noah Terano both contributed to the win with three points and Wyatt Snyder added two.
Holliday took advantage of the advantage he had with Jatsek against Crestwood’s defense.
“They didn’t have anybody to match up with Landon, and to be quite honest, in the beginning, they weren’t really digging on him too much so he was able to go to work,” Holliday said. “Then they started sending two and three and we were smart enough to make the correct read, and eventually, when it goes around the horn he gets it back and now he’s back to one-on-one, so our kids finally are starting to pick up some things that we’re teaching, which is awesome.”
Terano’s 3-pointer came in the first half when the Blue Devils fought for the lead.
“That was huge for us,” Holliday said. “It gave us a lot of momentum and confidence. He came in and gave us some quality minutes, which we needed.”
With the win, Independence improved to 2-9 on the year. The Blue Devils host Cuyahoga Heights on Tuesday.
Dekota Johnson led Crestwood with 17 points.