Kendall Hochstetler might be all business on the floor, but the same guy who earned Inter-Valley Conference South Player of the Year and Second Team All-Ohio honors is one of the crack-ups that keeps the Hawks loose.
Hochstetler and coach Mark Schlabach were able to poke a little fun at the star senior following the Hawks’ 57-50 Div. IV state semifinal victory over St. Henry on Friday, March 22.
After struggling through a first half in which he didn’t make an action shot, Schlabach revealed the true culprit, poking fun at Hochstetler before revealing an absolute truth that comes with every single state tournament game on the huge floor under the bright lights of the Schottenstein Center.
“Kendall had his shorts on backward in the first half,” Schlabach said as laughter rolled throughout the press people. “That’s why he didn’t make any shots the first half.”
Indeed, Hochstetler, who was being hawked hard by St. Henry defender Jay Knapke much of the game, was 0-of-4 in the first half.
“I didn’t even know until I got on the floor and coach Cameron Miller told me,” Hochstetler said.
“So at half-time he came running out there, and I thought, ‘That explains it,’” Schlabach said.
With his shorts adjusted in the second half, Hochstetler went on to connect on 3-of-5 shots including a pair of huge 3-pointers.
Schlabach then put levity aside for a moment and talked about the incredible pressure every player is under as they prepare for the biggest games of their high school careers.
“People who are never down here beforehand don’t quite understand how it is nerve-racking and exciting. I don’t care if you’ve been here one time or five times,” Schlabach said. “If that is the worst thing that happened for us, then that’s OK.”
Hochstetler then proved he could make light of himself and brighten the mood when he was asked about his key late-game block that came in the paint despite him having four fouls.
“I’m just going for the ball, trying to get my stat sheet up,” Hochstetler said, bringing laughter from the entire room.
“This is what we deal with, every day,” Schlabach said with a chuckle. “We were actually talking about it on the bench. We were like, ‘Let’s not even tell Kendall (that he had four fouls).’ There’s 30 seconds left. At that point you have to play like you have one foul, and he made a big play.”
OHSAA senior director of operations Bob Goldring, who runs the press conferences following each state tournament game, wrapped up the comedy session in a fitting way.
“Any more questions,” Goldring asked. After a long pause, he then said, “Kendall will be at the Funny Bone tonight,” as again laughter ruled the presser.
What is no laughing matter is that Hochstetler’s play and ability to keep the team loose has helped the Hawks reach the state final for the fifth time in school history and third time under the tutelage of Schlabach, now in his 14th year at the helm of the Hawks program.