Kirtland’s postseason run came to an end with a 59-54 loss to Lake Catholic in a Division III district semifinal at Salem High School on Monday.
The Hornets led early but couldn’t slow down the Cougars enough in the second half to clinch the victory.
“We talked about it after the Berkshire game, us playing a good game against Berkshire, so going out, we wanted to come out and compete, to represent our community the right way, and I thought we really did that today,” said Kirtland coach Shawn McGregor. “Lake Catholic is a really good team. They’re well-coached and disciplined, and they just made a couple of shots down the stretch. The same way we made a couple more plays in the Berkshire game, they made more plays tonight. I’m extremely proud of the kids and the effort they put forth.”
Lake Catholic scored the first two points of the game but the Hornets responded and took a 10-5 lead into the second quarter and extended that advantage to 24-20 heading into the locker room.
The Cougars began to find their rhythm in the second quarter as senior Aidan Fitzgerald scored 11 of his game-high 28 in the frame.
Lake Catholic opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run that gave the Cougars their first lead since the early moments of the game.
Fitzgerald scored 10 more points in the fourth quarter as the Cougars sealed their win.
Peyton Budrys-Rini also scored in double figures for Lake Catholic as he finished with 12 points.
Nick Barisic led the Hornets with 11 points, Gino Blasini and Vince Carriero both scored 10, Owen Mueller pitched in with eight, Dan Alfieri scored five, Will Sayle and Jack Green both pitched in with four, and Noah Nead added two points.
“We left some plays out there, but the guys played extremely hard,” McGregor said. “On the defensive end, to hold a team like Lake Catholic for as long as we did is a credit to their hard work.”
Kirtland closed out the season with a 13-10 record and a Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division championship despite a late start to the season and playing three games per week for most of the year.
“They’re competitors,” McGregor said of his players. “They’re great kids and they work hard, and that’s all you can ask for. The obstacles and adversity they had to face, year in and year out with a tough schedule, and the things they have to do to get in shape for basketball and hit the ground running five days before our first game and then they can’t look back. The fact they were able to win a CVC championship and a sectional title and be this close to advancing to the district championship is really remarkable. The community can be proud of how they played and what they were able to accomplish this year.”