Slow start dooms Independence at Hawken

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Hawken 66, Independence 46

GATES MILLS—Independence’s hopes of upsetting host Hawken on Tuesday didn’t last long.

The Blue Devils spotted the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division’s second place team a 16-0 lead and eventually fell, 66-46.

“I’m really disappointed in the way our starters came out,” said Independence head coach Hugh McMahon. “We’ve played much better at times. We just looked like a deer caught in headlights.”

Hawken standout Hugh Brown hit a pair of early 3-pointers and the Hawks’ defense did its part in keeping the Blue Devils from finding any rhythm on offense in the early goings as Hawken built a 26-8 first quarter lead.

“They’re a really well-coached team and they play extremely hard but we’ve got to step our game up to meet that, especially at the beginning,” McMahon said. “That’s too much of a hole to spot those guys. There’s no reason for them to be caught off guard. We’ve played teams that are similar. We’ve got to do a better job getting out against these guys. We can’t dig that big of a hole.”

Independence’s offense had trouble handling Hawken’s press, which led to errant passes, unforced turnovers and difficult shots.

“It was constant and it affected us completely,” McMahon said of the pressure. “I think it narrowed our vision from seeing the whole floor to maybe two feet in front of us. We were trying to make hero plays instead of making the simple plays of catching the ball and looking. We made the game harder than it had to be.”

The Blue Devils settled in and outscored the Hawks, 14-10, in the second quarter and 19-12 in the fourth, but the damage had been done.

Wyatt Flynn scored a game-high 14 points for the Blue Devils and Jordan Pace added six points. Akhil Patel contributed with five and Jordan Mallernee and Adam Kuczmarski both scored four.

“I was really proud of the second unit,” McMahon said. “They came in and played hard all the way through the fourth quarter. We saw some leadership from Akhil Patel and Justin Pace shot the ball well. Adam Kuczmarski really got on the glass and got some putbacks and got fouled. I was really proud they took advantage of the playing time and made the most out of it.”

Patrick Nestor scored a team-high 12 points for the Hawks, who improved to 6-4 overall and 5-1 in the CVC. Independence dropped to 4-6, 3-4.

“I think we can be a lot better team than what we showed,” McMahon said. “We just have to let it out there. One day that’s going to happen; hopefully soon.”

Hawken 66, Independence 46

Independence (4-6, 3-4 CVC): Patel 5, Teriberry 2, Ksiazka 3, Pace 6, Stefanski 2, Mallernee 4, Hall 3, Flynn 14, Kuczmarski 4

Hawken (6-4, 5-1 CVC): Ross 4, Brown 9, Clark 6, Snyder 9, Ehrbar 2, Ferguson 9, Spiegle 2, Perusek 7, Nestor 12, Canitia 6

Independence 8 14 8 19 — 46
Hawken 26 10 18 12 — 65

Free throws: Hawken 11 of 14, Independence 7 of 11; 3-pointers: Hawken 7 (Brown 2, Nestor 4, Snyder), Independence 5 (Pace 2, Patel, Ceculski, Hall).

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.