Garaway runs the IVC table & grabs title with thrilling 49-44 win over Hiland

After Garaway beat Hiland 41-39 on Ty Hamsher’s last second 3-pointer Jan. 8 in Sugarcreek, everyone and anyone associated with the two teams had circled Feb. 12 on their schedule. If things went according to plan, the two teams would be battling at the Reese Center in Berlin with the league title on the line.

That is exactly how it played out, and Garaway brought its perfect 15-0 mark into Hiland to face a Hawks team that was perched at 14-1.

The table had been set for a fantastic finish to the regular season, and now, when tow evenly matched teams would lay it on the line, a jam-packed house was set for an old-fashioned slobber-knocker that would surely feature two things: plenty of hard-nosed defense and a tight ball game.

And for pure entertainment value, the teams came through.

In a fantastic game that was incredibly enjoyable to watch play itself out, Garaway overcame several eight point Hiland leads and was able to finish its perfect league campaign with a 49-44 victory.

With twists and turns and big plays at almost every stop, this game rivaled the first meeting in terms of drama.

Hiland’s Turner Horn (video) drove hard to the hole to start the scoring, but was answered quickly by a Sam Gebhardt jumper. After Bryan Yoder’s three gave the Hawks a 5-2 lead, Ty Hamsher drove baseline, missed, grabbed his own rebound put it back and was fouled. His free throw tied the game again.

So this was how it would go throughout this intriguing contest, but it seemed as though throughout, Hiland would throw the initial punch, and Garaway would seem to find a way to counter.

Michael Miller begin taking over the game late in the first quarter, simply on sheer desire, the big man scoring inside, only to see Logan Mast give Garaway a lead with a 3-pointer. But Miller scored inside again, and Chris Kline split a pair of free throws to give Hiland a 10-8 edge after one.

The the Hawks got a mini-surge. Hiland scored on a prefctly executed backdoor cut to Horn, and Miller swooped inside for a score. Hamsher hit two free throws, but Kline drove the paint to give Hiland a 16-10 edge.

Garaway resonded with a Cameron Miller three-ball and a Hamsher put-back to draw to within one, but Bruce Troyer dropped in a long triple to give the Hawks a 19-15 edge. After Cameron Miller hit a pair of charity tosses, Hiland got six straight points form Noah Sommers (video), Troyer and when Scott Troyer made a steal and the lay-up, Hiland held a 25-17 lead.

Garaway coach Dave Shutt called a time-out, and the Pirates got two back when Broc Beachy found Joel Honigford on the block with a great pass. Gebhardt’s triple got Garaway back to within three, but Kline took his time, sized up a trey and drove it home before the halftime buzzer to give the Hawks a 28-22 lead at the intermission. (video)

In an electric atmosphere, the fans needed the 10 minutes to collect themselves.

So too did Garaway, which would come out in a ferocious zone in the second half and put the clamps on Hiland.

Hamsher hit two free throws to begin the third quarter, before Hiland would score five in a row, including one Horn free throw, a Michael Miller put-back and Austin Mast’s two free throws.

Hiland had forged its biggest lead at 33-24, and was on the cusp of making it very difficult for the Pirates to answer once again.

However, in a heartbeat that saw the Pirates throw in three treys, momentum swung in Garaway’s favor.

It began with a rare 3-pointer from Dallas Foster, who said of his shot, “It was there, so I took it. We were passing it around, I caught it and was open. I really didn’t think about it too much, and just let it fly.

Fortunately it gave us some momentum, because we know it is hard to come back from a nine-point deficit against them.”

A defensive stop and Beachy’e triple followed suit. Another stop and Isaac Weller drilled a three-ball. When Weller stepped into a passing lane an picked off Horn’s pass, his lay-up gave Garaway a shocking 35-33 lead. Hiland would not see the lead again.

“We get a lead like that and it is disappointing, because those are the types of things you want to be able to build on,” said Hiland coach Mark Schlabach. “That nine-point lead evaporated in a hurry.”

Bruce Troyer’s baseline drive near the end of the third quarter put the teams right back where they started in the beginning, all knotted up with eight minutes remaining.

Gebhardt hit a jumper, and the senior would step up big down the stretch. Horn’s jumper tied things at 37, but Honigford found the hole inside to give Garaway the lead right back. Horn then split a pair of free throws, as did Hamsher the other way, but the Pirates got a stop, and Gebhardt hit a twisting jumper in the lane for a 42-38 Garaway lead.

With 1:32 to play, Scott Troyer hit a jumper to draw the Hawks to within two at 42-20, but Gebhardt then slung a dagger, drilling a trey to put the Pirates up 45-40. Kline raced down the floor and drove in for two and after Honigford missed a one-and-one, Hiland had three opportunities to tie it but came up empty. Brady Schlabach, Hiland’s top 3-point artist, had two balls look awfully good that rattled out.

Hiland would then foul Foster with 22 seconds to play, and the senior would calmly go to the line and drain both for a 47-42 lead. Kline again raced down the floor and drove to the hole for a score to trim the Hawks’ deficit to three at 47-44.

Hiland quickly called time-out, and when the ball was inbounded Weller, he quickly whipped it back to Gebhardt, who had inbounded the ball. With the Hawks seeking to foul quickly, pretty much the entire Hiland team rushed for Gebhardt, who unloaded a long pas to Beachy, who had broken down the floor unattended. Beachy rose high, and made a lay-up with authority, as he nearly dunked it.

“I just wanted to make sure I made it,” said Beachy, who can dunk. “I was way too tired to dunk it.”

The final seconds ticked off the clock, and Garaway had its undefeated IVC title.

Bench Bytes

“We had some really good looks, we just didn’t knock them down. You can point to a lot of different things, but that was probably the difference in the game.”
– Hiland coach Mark Schlabach on Hiland’s struggle to put the ball in the basket, especially in the second half.

“He played well in the first half, but their zone really limited him in the second half. He did a really nice job against their big guys, because against their big guys he is a little bit outmanned, but he played really hard. And did a good job.”
– Schlabach on Michael Miller’s presence in the paint against Garaway triumvirate of big men, Joel Honigford, Cameron Miller and Dallas Foster.

“I thought that might have been the backbreaker, because it pulled us back into the game from whatever we were down at the time.”
– Garaway coach Dave Shutt on the consecutive 3-pointers from Dallas Foster, Broc Beachy and Isaac Weller that drew Garaway even in the third quarter.

“It was a pretty even game, but they made four threes in the second half, and those were all big shots.”
– Schlabach on Garaway’s outside shooting, especially the three straight triples that got the pirates back to even in the third quarter.

“We did a whole lot better in the second half. We kept possessions alive, made some gritty plays, especially down the stretch.”
– Shutt on Garaway’s final 16 minutes, a half in which they held Hiland to just 16 points.

“We have a ton of respect for this program. To come out here in this environment is big for us.”
– Shutt on respect for Hiland

“We take a ton of free throws in practice, just focusing on the form. Confidence is key. You can’t wonder what is going to happen if you miss. You’ve got to go up there and knock them down.”
– Dallas Foster on his late free throws that were a huge part of the end game for Garaway.

“We couldn’t have asked for better looks down the stretch from Brady. He is going to make those 50 percent of the time or more. To be honest, I was surprised both of those didn’t go in. The second one especially looked really good.”
– Schlabach on senior Brady Schlabach’s final-second 3-point attempts that would have tied the score.

“I told the kids, in my coaching career, there have only been two teams that have run the table, and you’re one of them. It is something to be proud of, but it doesn’t win us anything in the tournament. These kids would trade it for a really deep tournament run in a heartbeat.”
– Shutt on the Pirates perfect 16-0 IVC mark

“For whatever reason, we weren’t moving in the first half. We were standing and watching instead of participating.”
– Shutt on the difference between the first and second half

“He’s probably our best free throw shooter in practice. He started kind of slow, but lately he has found a rhythm. He’s been battle-tested, he’s been there, he’s a senior. That was good for him. It was huge.”
– Shutt on Dallas Foster basically clinching the game with a pair of late free throws.

“We made good plays, we just didn’t put the ball in the hole. In a game like that, when you know it is going to be a defensive battle, we felt like if we got to 50 we were going to be OK.”
– Schlabach on the struggles they had to produce points.

“It was a tournament-like game, in that both teams played a little tight. But we get a lead like that (nine points in the third quarter) and it is disappointing, because those are the types of things you want to be able to build on. That nine-point lead evaporated in a hurry.”
– Schlabach on Hiland’s inability to hold a pair of close to 10 point leads.

Player of the Game
This one is tough. So many players form both sides made solid contributions to the effort. Gebhardt came up with a huge fourth quarter. Hamsher did a lot of things well. Michael Miller played an inspirational game for the Hawks. Horn did some solid things on both ends of the floor. Weller and Beachy both came up with some big plays when Garaway needed them. But for the 3-pointerthat started the huge third quarter run, and his two clutch free throws at the end, Foster earns the Player of the Game award.

Plays of the Night

1. With a youngster walking along the sideline during action and meandering near a play, an official wisely called timeout as the action on the floor approached the youngster, who scampered up into the stands. This was important because it showed how focused this officiating group was. This contest was the most well-officiated game we have seen this year. Kudos to the officiating crew for calling things so well in such a huge contest.

2. Dallas Foster’s free throws were monster-big. (video) The fact that he hit nothing but the bottom of the net on both shows some real courage and steady nerves in the face of a big-time challenge.

3. Isaac Weller’s steal at the end of Garaway’s 11-0 third-quarter spurt capped off what was an electrifying several minutes for Garaway fans. (video)

Battle of the Student Bodies

Neither of these schools’ student sections lacks for creativity. They didn’t disappoint. Garaway students showed up in togas, then celebrated like the Roman senate once their team had finally won. Hiland’s students were decked out in beach apparel, and the two sections became a game unto itself as they bantered back and forth throughout the night in a spirited rivalry of cheers that was very enjoyable.

Flashback of the Night

Different schools play different national anthems, ranging from the Oak Ridge Boys to LeeAnn Rimes to other entertainers. Some use the school pep band or choir, while others opt for a student to go solo. But when Hiland chose to go old school to honor its seniors in their final home game, it was incredibly touching. Using video footage from 14 years prior, those in attendance turned to the big video board to watch and listen as then 4-year-old Brady Schlabach sang the national anthem during one of the Lady Hawks games. The cheers following his brave performance was incredible. (video)

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