Wednesday, June 29

    Toppers win again


    With a 45-37 win at Walsh Jesuit on Thursday, the Chardon Hilltoppers extended their winning streak to five straight games in a span of six days.

    The Hilltoppers pulled away from the Warriors with a 9-4 run in the third quarter and then hit key free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.

    “A win over a quality team like Walsh on the road, in our fourth game in four nights, really shows what we’re made of as a team and as individuals,” said Chardon coach Cullen Harris. “The character they showed this week is what coaching is all about–seeing kids grow and become better people on and off the court.”

    As impressive as Chardon’s five-game winning streak has been, it’s even more impressive that the Toppers have played every day this week and still had the energy to win against a quality opponent on the road.

    Over the course of the last four days, Chardon has played four different opponents who have a combined record of 45-21.

    “This four-game stretch has helped increase our confidence because we’ve beaten some quality teams in these four days and we did it in a variety of ways,” Harris said. “We played all half-court man against Perry, pressed and outscored Cuyahoga Falls, mixed up various zones, man, presses against Mayfield, and beat Walsh playing straight man and playing slow. We played 12 kids and had 11 score in the four games. We knew it would be a challenge but believed in our players and their toughness to be up for the task.”

    Chardon improved to 14-6 overall with the win at Walsh on Thursday. The Hilltoppers last lost on Jan. 23 and it’s that loss to Madison that has inspired the team to step up its intensity and to refocus on the next game.

    “The loss to Madison was a tough one for us,” said senior Ashley Hoenigman, who hit clutch free throws late in the win over Walsh. “I believe after that game we just came together and started working as a team and playing with more intensity and just hyping each other up after every play. Also, after the win over North, I think that’s what really helped us with our confidence and realizing we can be really good if we just do the little things. Our coach does a good job subbing us in and out and the bench comes in and does their job and makes it easier when we go back in.”

    It was those little things Hoenigman spoke of that helped Chardon to pull away from Walsh in the third quarter.

    “We did a great job in the third quarter finishing possessions on the defensive end,” Harris said. “To hold a team like Walsh to four points in a quarter, we did all the little things right. We also switched into a zone, back to man, back to zone to try to just slow it down a little and try to buy ourselves some time.”

    The Hilltoppers closed out the game with a 15-13 run in the fourth quarter.

    Jo Janda led the team with 14 points and Emily Noerr and Sam Liechty each finished with nine. Hoenigman closed out the game with five points but it was her late free throws that turned the Chardon lead into a multiple possession advantage.

    “It was a very exciting win over Walsh because we knew that they were a good team and that they were going to come out hard with high intensity and we knew we had to come out and outmatch that,” Hoenigman said. “At the end, when I got fouled and was walking to the line, I was thinking I had to make both of them to put us in a better position by making into a two-possession game instead of a one-possession game.”

    Chardon finally will take a day off but the Hilltoppers won’t have much time to relax as they put their winning streak on the line against Western Reserve Conference champion Brush on Saturday.

    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, 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, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the 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.
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