BURTON—With first place in the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division on the line, Kirtland scored the first 16 points of the game and then held off host Berkshire on Saturday, 50-40.
The Hornets, who dropped a tough non-conference game to Cornerstone Christian on Friday night, drew inspiration from that loss in their fast start against the Badgers.
“You can give credit to our Cornerstone loss and the girls putting in extra effort,” said Kirtland coach Brittany Zele in explaining the Hornets’ fast start. “They played hard last night and did what was needed with only six girls, but our shots didn’t fall. We talked about extra effort and how we are staying stagnate while others improve.”
The Hornets heard that message loud and clear and prior to boarding the bus for Burton, Kirtland’s players, led by captain Reilly Greenlee, showed up early for a quick shoot around.
“Reilly, being the great captain she is, got 11 girls to the gym at 11 this morning to get shots up before we left for our game,” Zele said. “We went 20-of-25 from the line, our best yet. The extra effort showed today in that.”
By the time the first quarter had ended, Kirtland held an 18-4 lead and was in total control of the game.
The Badgers proved they had plenty of fight left in them and went on to outscore Kirtland in the second and third quarters to cut their deficit to 36-27 heading into the fourth.
“We always talk about the fire in their belly and the emotion behind games,” Zele said. “We made a lot of mistakes that Berkshire capitalized on and we needed to find the fire in order to hold them off and play our game. They saw they can handle high-stress situations and make key plays down the line.”
Behind the hot shooting of Lydia Kastor, who went scoreless in the fourth quarter, the Badgers pulled to within 38-32 midway through the fourth.
Kastor finished with a team-high 17 points and drained four 3-pointers in the contest.
Kirtland held off the Badgers by converting 10-of-12 free throw tries in the fourth quarter.
“At the end of the fourth quarter, both teams were in the double bonus or one and one,” said Kirtland’s Haley Coso, who scored a game-high 20 points. “Since we had the lead, we slowed the game down and the Badgers were forced to foul. We distanced the lead with those made foul shots and got the win.”
Coso was 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
“Haley has been on another level for the last few weeks,” Zele said. “When she would miss a shot, she would follow and rip the ball from Berkshire and put it back up. She wants to win and she does such a great job of trying to keep everyone else positive, motivated, and relaxed during stressful times.”
Greenlee finished with 10 points and Macy McIntosh contributed to the win with eight. She was 7-of-8 from the line.
Kylie Neumore and Maddy Triskett both scored nine points for Berkshire.
Kirtland improved to 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the CVC Valley Division. The Badgers dropped to 4-4, 2-1.
“A game like this definitely boosts our confidence,” Coso said. “We still have a lot of work to do to be able to compete in playoffs, but I believe we’re on the right track.”