· Basketball - Holmes County ·

Hawks’ defense and sharpshooting earns 71-28 win over Knights

Sam Habeger splits Knights defenders Josh Shrock, left, and Zander Proper

Shane Jones hit a jumper in the lane to give West Holmes an early 2-0 lead in the backyard Holmes County rivalry game between the Knights and Hawks. Then Hiland’s Kyle Miller hit a 3-pointer. Then he hit another, and another and another. By the time Miller was done tossing down triples, the Hawks had a runaway 71-28 victory at The Dungeon at West Holmes High School on Tuesday, Nov. 4, and Miller had quite a debut as a Hawks starter, having bided his time, waiting patiently in the wings for a chance to shine.

Miller made all six of his attempts from downtown, producing all 18 of his game-high points from deep, but while the Hawks were busy putting up strong numbers on offense, it was their defense that had both coaches talking after the game. With Hiland’s dynamic duo of Andy Miller and Jared Raber being their pesky best up front, along with Kyle and Cody Miller and Hunter Sommers, Hiland pressured from the get-go and never let off the defensive pedal.

“Andy and Jared, we rely on those two guys to frustrate, wear down and take the other team out of their offense,” Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach said.

West Holmes first-year head coach Jordan Widder also was effusive in his praise of Hiland’s defensive pressure.

“That’s top-notch pressure,” Widder said. “That’s as good as we are going to see; there’s no doubt. I respect what they do and what they stand for defensively, and that is the direction we are going. Right now we are not where we need to be.”

After Kyle Miller’s initial trey, Will Schlabach followed with another, and Kendall Hochstetler’s lay-up moved Hiland out to the early 9-3 edge. Jones scored again on a nice move in the paint, but Hiland ended the first quarter on a five-point run that included a steal and score from Cody Miller and Kyle Miller’s second three-ball.

“They play a switching defense, and a lot of times they were helping on Andy [Miller], and because of our penetration, Kyle got some nice looks,” coach Schlabach said. “We knew we had to make some shots tonight because they do a really good job of collapsing and taking charges. That’s what happened in their game with Loudonville: They just didn’t give up lay-ups. So we needed those threes to get a cushion. Kyle can expand the floor, and what I liked was that he played his best defense, and I think it was because he made those shots early.”

Hiland quickly extended its lead to begin the second quarter when Hochstetler scored inside and Sam Habeger added two buckets from in close. Josh Shrock hit a 3-pointer, and Jacob Goudy produced a bucket inside to get the Knights back to within 22-9, but Hiland’s pressure defense was taking a toll as the Hawks continued pressuring the ball out front, giving West Holmes fits.

Andy Miller and Goudy traded free throws before the Hawks scored late in the half when Hochstetler scored inside off a great pass from Habeger, and Andy Miller hit another free throw to give the Hawks a 27-10 halftime lead.

Widder said the game plan was to try to slow down point guard Andy Miller, but he said his athleticism, quickness and competitive nature make that a tough chore.

“We tried to slow him down,” Widder said of stopping the Hawks’ point guard. “He is the guy who makes their offense go, and it is a tough job for Grant Baker, who has played limited varsity minutes, to step in and guard a guy like Andy Miller.”

While the Knights remained within shouting distance, Kyle Miller was about to change that. The senior drilled two 3-pointers to begin the third quarter, and Hiland center Korrie Hostetler and Mekhi Johnson traded free throws. The Hawks were now up 34-11. Shrock gave the Knights a spurt, scoring on a triple and two free throws, and Johnson hit two charity tosses, but with Hiland up 38-18, things were about to turn ugly for West Holmes. Hiland went on a 10-0 run to end the third period with Hochstetler’s three, a steal and lay-up along with Kyle Miller’s fifth 3-pointer. This pushed the Hawks’ lead to 48-18 heading into the final period.

That 10-point run turned into a 24-0 explosion as Hiland scored the first 14 points of the fourth quarter. It started with Kyle Miller’s sixth triple, and when Ryan Miller knocked down a short jumper, the Hawks lead had ballooned to 62-18.

Zach Stair finally stopped Hiland’s huge run, and after Ryan Miller and Chris Shetler scored for Hiland, West Holmes got scores from Jacob Hammond and Noah Proper. Hiland’s Schlabach drained his second three, and Bubba Hay, who had a 19-point effort in the Knights’ JV win, hit two free throws, but it was all window dressing because this one was officially over after the huge run in the second half.

“We have to get better, and that is what we’ll do tomorrow,” Widder said. “Offensively it takes some time and great effort and energy on each and every play to have that kind of pressure in your face.”

Widder said had they been able to execute their sets better early, it may have been a different story, but he said every time they tried to run their offense Hiland was able to disrupt the flow.

“We know in a game like this we have to control the possessions, and we got away from that early because we got down and it got away from us,” Widder said. “Controlling those possessions would have been big for us, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Widder said his team will go back to the film room, study the action on the floor, glean what they can from it to improve and move on.

“We have 20 more games and the tournament, and we can’t dwell on it,” Widder said. “It stinks because it’s our neighbor and these guys really wanted to win. But these guys have worked hard, and we will continue to work to get better each time out.”

Shrock played well for the Knights, scoring a team-high 10 points, while Jones added four as the Knights struggled to put the ball in the hole all night.

Kyle Miller was perfect from downtown to lead Hiland with his 18 points. Hochstetler scored 11, Habeger added 10, Schlabach scored six, and Hunter Sommers and Kody Miller added five apiece. Hiland placed 11 players in the scoring column in the win, knocking down 11 three-pointers in the process.

“I don’t think we are going to have a guy score like Kyle did tonight every night,” coach Schlabach said. “We are going to have to be balanced. That is the make-up of our team.”

Schlabach went on to say that he thought as a team his crew shot the ball well, and he liked the shot selection his team took. He said as good as his team played defensively, he thinks they will need to continue to work to match the intensity that last year’s defensive-driven team exhibited night after night.

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