KIRTLAND—Kirtland’s 62-51 win over Garrettsville Garfield on Tuesday was the proverbial icing on the cake for coach Nick Gallo.
Gallo started all five of his seniors in the game and each delivered with a strong performance, but it was what Gallo heard during Senior Night introductions before tip-off that meant even more to the first-year coach.
“Hearing those things before the game about 4.4 GPAs and being part of all these clubs and being an active person in the community, basketball is a small thing compared to all that,” Gallo said. “The game aside, I’m just very happy to be these guys’ coach and honored to be their coach this season. I’m sad I only got one year with these guys. It’s such a good group of kids. They’re champions on and off the floor. Either way it was nice to see all five of our seniors on the floor and be active tonight.”
James Keleman spent most of the season recovering from a wrist injury. He sparked the Hornets and their fan base with an early first quarter bucket and finished the game with a season-high three points.
“He’s such a great kid,” Gallo said. “With the wrist injury this injury he hasn’t really gotten into a rhythm but it was good to see him get on the floor tonight and be active on Senior Night. It was a good night for Kirtland basketball.”
The rest of Kirtland’s seniors also made an impact.
That group swung the momentum in Kirtland’s favor early in the third quarter.
Garfield scored the first bucket of the second half to take a 21-20 lead but Skiljan followed with a jumper, Grazia drained a three and Boyd picked off a G-Men pass and took it the other way for an easy layup and a 27-21 Kirtland lead.
Loncar made it 29-21 before Garfield hit a pair of free throws to pull to within six again but a Madden and-1 and another Grazia three pushed Kirtland’s lead to double digits.
“It was a good night for all of them,” Gallo said of his seniors. “I thought in the second half we did a good job of pushing the basketball. We got a couple easy layups and touchdown passes. We talk about that all the time, cycling and getting the ball ahead as much as we can. I thought we finished plays at the rim.”
Loncar did most of his damage at the rim.
He helped the Hornets with second chance opportunities and made the most of his own chances in the paint.
“I thought he did a better job of filling plays,” Gallo said. “He didn’t make every jumper but I thought he was really active around the rim, stepping into the gray areas and penetrating. I thought Tommy was good around the rim tonight.”
Kirtland hosts Wickliffe on Sunday in a makeup game that will decide the Hornets’ fate in the Chagrin Valley Conference. A win would give them a share of the Valley Division title.