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Kirtland vs. North boys basketball: Hornets defense stands stout in 52-49 victory

Jan. 13—Kirtland came into a nonconference game against North on Jan. 13 having won its past two games. The Hornets knew defensively they needed another strong showing to push that to three straight victories.

They did that in the first half and had a double-figure lead at halftime. North began to chip away at the lead late and came from down 10 to within a bucket of tying the game.

Da'Moni Hunt put up a contested 3-pointer that bounced off the rim and out as the horn sounded and Kirtland held on for a 52-49 victory. The Hornets are now 7-2, while North fell to 6-5.

The Hornets' defense was a challenge for the Rangers from the opening tip as they forced 13 turnovers. Coach Sean McGregor said his team was at a height disadvantage, so he stressed to his defense to get into the Rangers' ball handlers.

"We knew North is a quality team that is well-coached but our kids came out with an amazing effort," McGregor said. "(Sean) Register is a beast and we wanted to make sure he had to work for everything he got. The second quarter we got them out of rhythm in the backcourt and had some easy looks in transition. That's what we're about, our calling card is our defense and we're going to play everyone hard for 32 minutes and let the chips fall where they may."

While the Hornets defense started well, the offense needed time to warm up. Nick Barisic was ready for the workload on that end.

Barisic led the team with 24 points, 17 in the first half that propelled Kirtland to the halftime advantage.

Barisic knew his teammates would get the scoring going eventually and was happy to handle the offensive duties early.

"I definitely got hot early and that was a big complement to go with our defense," Barisic said. "I cooled off a bit in the second half but the early start helped push us in the right direction to start the game."

Vince Carriero had nine points as the second leading scorer, all of which came in the second half. But the Hornets had a lot of players get involved with seven in the scorebook and everyone working the boards.

McGregor knows that the offense will come eventually. But he knows Kirtland's defense will allow them to stay with everyone while the offense finds its groove.

"We talk about how dangerous we can be with how we want to play," McGregor said. "With depth, we want to be able to run the floor and share the ball, advance it with the pass. That leads to easy buckets and we needed every single one of them today. Nick has been playing great all year, came out hot and when we needed a bucket we went to him."

Register led the Rangers with a game-high 31 points.

North chipped away at the halftime deficit and was down three in the third quarter. Kirtland responded with two quick buckets, one off of an inbounds attempt and pushed it back to a multi-possession game.

The Hornets led by as many as 10 with less than three minutes left but a quick 3-pointer from Hunt and a transition layup had it as a three-point game with 10 seconds left. The Rangers inbounded the ball, got it to Hunt but his shot fell short.

"Coach told us just don't foul," Barisic said. "We knew coming in North wasn't used to the slowed-down style of play. We got chippy, got into them. We played smart and didn't give them the easy look at the three that they wanted to try and force overtime."

The Rangers look to rebound when they host Beachwood on Jan. 16. Kirtland looks for its fourth win in a row with a trip to Brooklyn on the same date in a CVC crossover.

THE SCORE

Kirtland 52, North 49