Defense rules the roost as Hawks clip Cardinals’ wings 50-36

At times during Hiland’s 50-36 victory over Sandy Valley Friday, Dec. 3 at the Reese Center in Berlin, the offensive portion of the game was not a whole lot of fun to watch.

However, defensively, the Hawks laid down a suppressing defense that limited Sandy Valley, especially in the second half, and it was a nice gut-check win for the Hawks, who were challenged by a good Cardinals team.

“For the most part, we put a lot of energy into our defense tonight, maybe even to the point where it hurt us a little bit at the offensive end of the floor,” said Hiland coach Mark Schlabach. “But I was really happy with the way we worked on defense tonight. I thought that was the difference.”

Turner Horn and Brady Schlabach were the full extent of Hiland’s offense until mid way through the second quarter. The duo scored eight and five points respectively to help the Hawks offset the hot shooting of Danny Bartholomew, who buried a pair of 3-pointers to keep Sandy Valley close at 13-11.

When Michael Miller knocked down a trey and Horn scored inside, followed by an Austin Mast triple, it looked like the Hawks might turn this one into a rout, but Bartholomew hit yet another trey and scored inside, and after a Chris Kline drive, the Sandy Valley sophomore scored to end the half with the Hawks up just 23-18.

In the second half Kline finally found his groove. The speedy point guard has struggled to find his shot early on this season, but he picked up the pace with an 11-point second half. Kline scored twice on drives, then made a steal that resulted in a Horn lay-up, and Hiland edged out in front 29-20, forcing Cardinals coach Gary Offenberger to call a time-out.

“Chris played his best game,” said Schlabach. “He scored, distributed and limited his turnovers tonight. We got the game we needed out of him.”

It worked, as Chad Neisel scored twice to trim the deficit to 32-27. But the Hawks were about to get offensive.

Schlabach found Miller inside for an and-one, Horn hit a pair of free throws and after Bartholomew hit three free throws, Miller knocked down a pair of charity tosses and Scott Troyer drilled home a 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 40-29 edge.

Sandy would not threaten again.

“Even well into the third quarter there was nothing wrong with our game, but when the game gets called physically, and you are the non-aggressor, you’re at a disadvantage,” said Offenberger. “I thought that is what happened to us late.”

Sandy Valley’s patient approach on offense had each team taking fewer looks at the bucket, making each possession a premium.

Hiland did not shoot it that well, but Schlabach said he was interested to see how his team would respond on a night when they didn’t shoot the rock.

“We have been shooting at a ridiculous percentage,” said Schlabach. “We knew one of these nights was going to show up sooner or later. This game had a tournament-type pace to it, and it was good for us to see this style.”

Sandy Valley was coming off a tremendous football campaign that saw them qualify for the state playoffs. Having little time to prepare, Offenberger’s crew still has to get their basketball legs under them.

While he didn’t use that as an excuse, Schlabach knows that the Cardinals will only get better as the year progresses.

“We got to a lot of the loose balls and rebounds tonight, “said Schlabach. “But the thing with Sandy is, they are going to get a lot better as the year goes on, with so many of their kids coming off of football and not being ready. I told our guys, we are going to look back at this game at the end of the year and say this was a really good win for us. Coaches in the league know they are in the top tier of the league, and they are going to be good for a number of years.”

Bartholomew led all scorers with 16 points, with Bryce Offenberger adding eight and Neisel pitching in with six. Hiland was paced by Horn’s 16 and Kline’s 13, while Miller added eight and Troyer and Schlabach each scored five.

The rebounding edge went to Hiland 26-20, with Miller and Horn each hauling in six boards apiece for the Hawks, and Darrin Finn hauling in six for the Cardinals. Sandy Valley was forced into 13 turnovers while Hiland committed nine.

The win improved the Hawks to 2-1 on the year, while Sandy Valley fell to 1-1.

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