ROCKY RIVER—Lutheran West’s 45-42 win over visiting Independence on Saturday highlights the importance of keeping a steady mindset, no matter the circumstances.
The Longhorns opened the game on a 9-0 run only to fall behind the Blue Devils by 14 points in the third quarter. Lutheran West rallied back to win the game and even the season series at 1-1.
“It was a big win,” said Lutheran West coach Andrea Petta. “I think confidence-wise, we were in a better place mentally than the first time and that’s something we’ve been working on. It was a group effort. It wasn’t just one or two kids. I think everyone kind of bought in to go get one.”
Carina Cedeno scored five of her team-high 11 points in the first quarter as the Longhorns reeled off nine straight points before Independence put the ball in the hoop.
A Blue Devil run cut Lutheran West’s lead to just 11-10 after the first quarter.
Independence’s Madison Stepanik scored eight of her 12 points in the first quarter and added a put back in the second to help the Blue Devils build a 27-22 halftime lead.
Natalie George, who finished with six points, and Anna Weber, who scored a game-high 13, combined to score the first seven points of the third quarter as Independence built a 14-point advantage in the second half.
Lutheran West remained steady and didn’t panic.
“We’ve been in this situation a lot of times,” Petta said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games, so being able to look back and rely on that experience was key. We reminded them constantly to keep working. There was a lot of time left. This is a really resilient group and I know the year has been hard for every single team. We’ve been in that situation and we were playing with five or six kids at the beginning of the season and we just kept working. We were chipping away and we just kept working.”
The Longhorns did chip away at the Independence lead and entered the fourth quarter down by just three points.
“We made shots, it’s that simple,” said Independence coach Mike Marcinko of the run that began in the first quarter and carried over into the third. “The reason we lost the lead was because we didn’t hit shots. They made shots and we didn’t and all of a sudden, it’s a two-point game. It’s always tough to win a road game and they’re a quality opponent. We knew coming in it was going to be a 50-50 game and we didn’t play up to our standards and they played well. They earned it.”
Cedeno and Jaylee Rivera both hit 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and Kelly Owens added a pair of free throws for the Longhorns as they scored 12 of the game’s final 18 points.
“That was just confidence,” Petta said. “We were shooting the ball when we were open. We’ve been passing up a lot of open looks, maybe trying to be a little bit too unselfish and not just taking the things we have.”
Hope Kiraly contributed to the win with eight points, Rivera finished with seven and Talia Felton pitched in with six points. Evelyn Albers and Kelly Owens both scored five and Caelen Mack added three points for the Longhorns, who improved to 7-7 overall and 5-5 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division.
“That is a coach’s dream,” Petta said of the balanced scoring. “It’s great to have people who can step up and knock down 20-25 points, and I’d take that if it’s that kind of night, but to be able to literally rely on every single person and know they can do what they need to do is a coach’s dream.”
Anna Weber scored 13 points to lead Independence, who dropped to 11-6, 6-4.
“We’ll look at the film and try to correct the mistakes,” Marcinko said. “Now we’ve got to get ready for Fairview. It’s a non-league game but we’ve got to cure our ills and fix what went wrong.”