Hiland Boys Basketball

Hawks can’t overcome talented Dragons in 61-47 regional final loss

Seniors Noah Sommers (left) and Turner Horn agonize in the closing moments of their careers as Hawks fall in regional final

Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach knew his team would have to play a nearly perfect game to defeat Proctorville Fairland High School in the Div. III Athens regional final Saturday, March 18 at the Convocation Center at Ohio University.

For the first eight minutes they got it, but the rest of the night belonged to the Dragons, who overcame a horrid shooting performance in the first half to post a 61-47 victory over the Hawks that pushed them into Fairland’s first state tournament appearance since 1961.

“We needed to play for four quarters the way we played the first quarter,” Schlabach said. “We just didn’t play well enough to win, and that is all it comes down to. We played too much of their game in periods two, three and four, and not enough of what we did in the first quarter. Against teams like that, your margin of error is so small, and they took advantage of our mistakes.”

Hiland came out of the gate and punched the Dragons squarely in the jaw, as Hiland took advantage of Fairland’s inability to put the ball in the basket from close range.

After big Kollin Van Horn put the Dragons up with a score in the paint, Andy Miller drove for two, Turner Horn scored off a sensational assist from Noah Sommers and Miller hit a runner in the lane for a 6-2 lead.

Ty Staten buried a three, but Hiland sharpshooter Kobe Troyer answered with one of his own. Gunner Short kept the Dragons close, but Chris Kline scored off a steal and Troyer canned another triple to end the quarter with Hiland up 14-11.

However, Fairland was about to pick up the pace of the game and use their size and speed to forge a lead they would not relinquish.

Turner Horn scored a pair on two free throws to give the Hawks their largest lead at 16-11, but Hiland would go absolutely cold from the field, making only two shots in the period, while the Dragons clawed to a one-point lead. With time winding down, the Dragons threw up a desperate shot that fell far short, but the ball hit the floor and Staten grabbed it and made a reverse lay-up to end the half with the Dragons up 23-20.

“In the first quarter we got stops and controlled tempo,” Schlabach said. “And we made some shots. Our shooting percentage in the middle quarters was horrible.”

The Hawks still had life though, down just three at the break, but Hiland’s shooting woes continued in the pivotal third period, when Fairland outscored the Hawks 18-7 to pout the game away.

As was the case in the second period, Hiland managed to make just two field goals in 10 tries. The Dragons would catch fire, hitting a scorching 16-of-28 action shots in the second half. A three-point deficit at 25-22 turned into a 34-22 disadvantage for Hiland, as Thomas and Short would begin to take over the game.

At its largest lead at 17 points in the fourth quarter, Fairland looked in total control, but the Hawks would have one final surge left. Down 46-29, Scott Troyer would hit a short pull-up jumper, Andy Miller scored on a drive and then Miller would penetrate, skip a pass to Kobe Troyer in the corner who quickly moved it to Kline who drained a triple to trim the Dragons’ lead to 46-36.

After the teams traded scores, Staten would score twice and Thomas would add a bucket, undoing all of the gains Hiland had just obtained.

Scott Troyer would hit a couple of jumpers, but Hiland simply couldn’t find the hole enough, and while Kendall Hochstetler’s late three would add some cosmetics to the final score, Fairland had proven why it leaves for state with a 24-1 record in tow.

“We did a nice job of limiting Van Horn to four points, but we let him affect us too much at the offensive end,” Schlabach said of the timber-like Van Horn, who blocked three shots but altered many more.

Schlabach said that Hiland did get off a couple of really good looks early in the third quarter, but couldn’t get them to fall. The Hawks then fell into Fairland’s game of pushing the tempo, and things unraveled quickly.

“We got into a race with them instead of trying to play our game like we did early,” Schlabach said.

All season long Hiland has used its incredible quickness out front on defense to force turnovers. Schlabach said he felt his team wouldn’t be able to do that against Fairland’s talented group of guards, who could handle the rock and were big and strong enough to fend off Hiland’s attack.

“They don’t have any weaknesses,” Schlabach said. “In their starting five, there is not one weakness on the floor. We had to pick our poison, and that is why they are an impressive team.”

Fairland coach Nathan Speed said his team was aggressive offensively without rushing shots. He said in the regional semifinal contest, a squeaker over Garaway that was decided in the closing seconds, he felt his team rushed things and got out of sync.

He said what they felt they learned from that game was that they needed to keep attacking while playing good positional defense.

“That defense allowed us to get out and run a little more,” Speed said. “I thought we were relaxed, laid back and ready to go tonight.”

With the Dragons breaking a string of 56 years without a state appearance, there were plenty of reasons for the Proctorville fans to celebrate as the final buzzer sounded.

“We are going to party like its 1961,” Speed said with a laugh. “We are going to do what we’ve done all season, and that is prepare one game at a time. We are going to keep our heads down and keep working and hope for the best.”

For the game, Thomas led all scorers with 24 points, while Short added 14, Staten tacked on nine and Isaiah Howell added eight. Hiland was paced by Miller’s 13 and Scott Troyer’s 10, while the Hawks’ leading scoring tandem of seniors Horn and Kline were held to eight and five, respectively, while Kobe Troyer added six.

Senior Noah Sommers did an outstanding job of defending Van Horn, and he ended his career like he had played all season, hauling in nine rebounds against a huge Dragons team.

Schlabach had high praised for his three seniors, who helped this year’s team achieve above and beyond what many people felt it would as the Hawks bowed out at 22-5.

“This group has probably reached its potential as much as any group we’ve had,” Schlabach said of the Hawks. They got as much out of each other as they could possibly get, and you’ve got to be proud of a team that does that. And on the court, off the court, our three seniors did an amazing job of providing different things, and it has been a great combination of senior leadership. We are going to struggle to replace what they gave us on and off the court.”

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