A four-quarter rally helped Kirtland overcome a three-quarter deficit on the way to a 41-34 win over Cuyahoga Heights on Saturday.
The Hornets trailed by six after the first quarter and by three at halftime. Cuyahoga Heights’ entered the fourth quarter leading, 31-30.
“This was the perfect game to have before playoffs,” said Kirtland coach Brittany Zele. “Cuyahoga Heights is a skilled team, much like what we will see in playoffs. To play them and be down and to come back says a lot about what we can potentially do in playoffs.”
Tess Conroy was a big reason for Cuyahoga Heights’ success in the first three quarters.
She drained a pair of 3-pointers on the way to an eight-point first, and added three more 3s to enter the fourth quarter with all 17 of her points.
That’s when the Hornets made their move.
“At the end of the third, the girls asked, ‘Coach, can we do a triangle and 2?’” Zele said. “I wasn’t sold on this because I know the potential the entire team had on scoring but they wanted to try something to get a stop. While (Julia) Harris wasn’t scoring, she was their playmaker, so a complete denial on her and Conroy was the best option.”
Zele drew up rotations for the squad and now it was up to Haley Coso, Leah LaVerde, Macy McIntosh, Reilly Greenlee and Corinne Greenlee to execute the plan.
“They did an amazing job,” Zele said. “Reilly hit a 3 to put us up and we took the momentum from there with four more points from an assist and a steal at the end,” Zele said. “We started off slow again waiting for someone else to score or hesitant because we missed layups or got blocked. We missed shots and didn’t get rebounds. It wasn’t our game. Once they started to drive and create, that’s when everything started to fall into place.”
Kirtland outscored Cuyahoga Heights in the fourth quarter, 12-3, on the way to improving to 12-3 on the year.
Reilly Greenlee caught fire as she scored six of her team-high 11 in the final quarter. McIntosh also finished the game with 11 points and Marisa Carmosino and Coso both contributed with six.
“The fourth quarter is when everything clicked for us as a team,” Zele said. “We switched up our defense, which was huge in stopping them from scoring as much and we were smarter in our offensive decisions. I know we really wanted to win and I think our mentality really came through in the last minutes of the game. It was very exciting to come back and win because usually, we are weaker towards the end of our games, so that really helps our confidence and hypes us up for our tournament games.”
The Hornets host Liberty on Wednesday in a sectional semifinal.