Hiland Boys Basketball

Hawks confound St. Peter’s in second half to win 46-35

Andy Miller and Hiland's D proves to be too much for Spartans

Coming into Hiland’s contest against a talented Mansfield St. Peter’s Spartans team in the final game of the annual Hiland High School First Federal Holiday Showcase tournament on Friday, Dec. 28, Hawks’ head coach Mark Schlabach had a game plan.

That plan was to harass, confound and pressure the Spartans as much as possible out front and wear them down.

While Schlabach admitted his team took some lumps from trying to pressure a super-talented backcourt in the first half, the strategy paid off in a huge way in the second half as the Hawks held the Spartans, who went just six deep, to just eight second-half points en route to a 46-35 victory.

“We gave up some stuff in the first half that we don’t like to give up, but it paid off for us in the second half,” Schlabach said. “They scored eight points in the second half on three tough shots. We were really happy with our second-half effort. We have the capability of doing that, and we did it against a really good team.”

While the usual suspects of shut-down defense for the Hawks were present in Andy Miller and Jared Raber, it was an unusual source in addition to them that played a key role in defending around the arc.

While post player Sam Habeger has been dominant at times in the paint for the Hawks, the Hiland coaching staff asked him to step out and defend the perimeter as part of the game plan. He did so with a vengeance.

“We’ve got some guys who are great one-on-one defenders, but I thought Sam did a remarkable job tonight of getting after it in a way we haven’t asked him to much this year,” Schlabach said. “That’s as much as I have seen him on the floor this season. We did a great job of locking them down in the second half, and that was key. We didn’t win those matchups in the first half, but we definitely did in the second half. One thing we can do with some of our kids like Sam and Kendall [Hochstetler] is dictate matchups because they can guard different kinds of people. That was a tough matchup for Sam tonight.”

Initially the Spartans’ length and athleticism caused Hiland some huge problems. Not only was St. Peter’s getting some quality shots in the first half, they were making life miserable for Hiland on offense, blocking six shots in what was a spirited first half.

The two teams battled to a 7-7 tie before Hiland’s Will Schlabach entered the game and promptly delivered a 3-pointer to give the Hawks the lead at 10-7. The Spartans would then go on an 8-3 run to end the first quarter, sandwiching two scores from Shawn Perkins-Harris and buckets from Caleb Stewart and Josh Rose around another Schlabach three to lead 15-13.

Trailing 19-15, Hiland responded with five straight points to take a 20-19 lead, but St. Peter’s defense and the play of Jonah Ramey and Perkins-Harris as well as Stewart dropping in a three-ball from the corner would spot the Spartans to a 27-22 half-time lead.

“Two games in a row we’ve been a little stagnant on offense,” Schlabach said. “At the half we talked about creating more movement away from the ball, which we got. Even where we weren’t making shots, we were getting offensive rebounds, and when you do that, good things happen.”

Then came an abrupt start to the third quarter for Hiland that set the tone for the rest of the game. The defense had done its job in wearing down St. Peter’s, and the offense sprang to life. Andy Miller fed Habeger for an easy two, and Kendall Hochstetler scored twice inside to give Hiland a 28-27 lead. Later the Hawks would get four cracks at scoring, and Habeger’s put-back made it 30-27.

Finally with 1:17 left in the quarter, the Spartans found the bucket on a Luke Henrich three that tied the score at 30, but a Hochstetler free throw and his jumper gave the Hawks a 33-30 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

It didn’t take long for Hiland to establish itself. Andy Miller ripped a 3-pointer, Schlabach made a steal that led to a Habeger free throw, a Spartans’ turnover turned into a lengthy Andy Miller triple, and when Hochstetler knocked down a pair of free throws, the Hawks were ahead 42-30 and the Spartans were reeling.

Henrich would hit another trey, and Perkins-Harris knocked down a short jumper, but the Hawks’ defense continued to haunt the Spartans, who were by now gasping and unable to defend with any vigor as Hiland dribbled off huge chunks of time. Hiland’s final score defined the second half when Miller dove after a ball along the sideline and shoveled the ball to Habeger, who bounce-passed a perfect assist right between a defender’s legs to a cutting Hochstetler to put the wraps on the impressive win.

“We took some chances defensively in the first half going for steals, so in the second half we really stressed just keeping the ball in front of us and make them make plays,” Schlabach said. “Once we got the lead, it changed the way they had to play the game because they couldn’t just spread the floor like they had been.”

Schlabach went on to say that offensively they haven’t been as consistent as they want to be, but the fact that the last two games have seen the scoring very spread out with lots of guys contributing instead of the team relying solely on Hochstetler to generate points has been good.

He also was pleased his Hawks were competing against some very high-end competition the past several games, which he said will only make them better once games start for real in March.

Henrich scored 10 to lead St. Peter’s, and Stewart added eight, all in the first half. The Hawks got 13 apiece from Andy Miller and Hochstetler while Habeger added nine and Schlabach chipped in with six. The victory improved Hiland to 8-1 while St. Peter’s fell to 6-3.

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