· Inter-Valley Conference ·

Hawks hand Braves their first loss in a game drenched with drama

Hiland stops Indian Valley in a fantastic game

Anyone expecting to see a blowout when Hiland hosted Indian Valley in an Inter-Valley Conference showdown on Friday, Feb. 9 in the Reese Center had obviously wandered into the wrong gymnasium.

In a contest between two of the area’s top teams, the Hawks and Braves waged a battle that was very reminiscent of their first confrontation, which went right down to the wire before the Braves pulled out a hard-fought 42-37 win.

This time the Hawks were able to turn the tables, defending their home turf to hand the Braves their first loss in a 47-39 win that was far closer than that eight-point differential would indicate.

“You knew points were going to be at a premium, and we challenged our kids because they just kicked our butt at their place. They owned the paint on us,” Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said. “We really did a good job of fighting with their big guys.”

For the Braves, their head coach said for the first time this season his team wasn’t the one exhibiting the toughness needed to win.

“Our effort was there, but our toughness wasn’t,” Indian Valley head coach Jamie Herman said. “We are supposed to be tougher than every team that we play, and tonight we weren’t.”

This game took root and was close throughout, despite Indian Valley leaping to a 7-0 lead when Braden Rostad nailed a 3-pointer. Hiland answered quickly, taking the lead at 9-8 after Sam Habeger’s score inside and Scott Troyer’s three. When Troyer scored in the paint late, Hiland held an 11-10 edge after one quarter.

It was obvious then that neither team was going to run away and hide. Hiland center Damien Kandel hit four straight free throws to put the Hawks up by four, and Hiland later pushed out to a six-point lead when Andy Miller found Habeger inside, but a Karson Hatrick put-back and two Cade Williams free throws made it 19-17 Hiland at the half.

After Miller made a steal and went the distance to open the third period, the Braves heated up and took a 23-21 lead, getting two Ryan Berger free throws and four points from Hatrick.

Kobe Troyer then hit a three-ball, and moments later Tanner Myers was whistled for a technical foul, resulting in two Scott Troyer free throws. Kobe Troyer hit his second triple of the quarter, and a pair of Andy Miller free throws allowed Hiland to sneak out to a 33-28 edge through three.

Trailing early in the fourth quarter by six, the Braves got right back in it on a Connor McGuire trey and a Berger free throw.

Miller scored on a driving layup, Berger answered with his own drive off a steal, and with 9 seconds to play, the game was anyone’s for the taking.

It came down to who was going to make a play, and it would be Scott Troyer, who took a pass on the right wing, drove to the block and found Kendall Hochstetler with a nice pass, Hochstetler making the shot and adding an and-one for a 42-37 lead.

Indian Valley would get no closer as the Hawks closed things out by hitting free throws down the stretch, and Hiland had given Indian Valley its first loss of the season.

“They’re hating it right now,” Herman said of his team in the locker room following the game. “If you talk football and basketball, that is our first regular-season loss all year. The look on their face was good. If that causes more refocus, more energy and better defense, then by all means this was worth it.”

As for the Hawks, who have now reeled off nine straight wins, this game was one of those games that tests the will and mental toughness of a team, and Schlabach was more than happy with the way his team played.

“It was a gut-check,” Schlabach said. “In the third quarter we were struggling to say the least, and I was proud of the gut-check and our execution down the stretch.”

While there are many takes from this second of two thrillingly intense games these two teams played, one thing is certain: Neither will be sad that they are heading in opposite directions come tournament time, Indian Valley heading to the Div. II district and Hiland moving back into Div. IV this season.

Instead, they will bid adieu to one another in what looks like it might quickly develop into a rivalry filled with mutual respect.

“I’m really glad Indian Valley is on our side of the league (IVC South),” Schlabach said. “They are really good, and maybe we will have a new rival. We are really excited about it because they are going to be really good for years to come.”


A Second Look

  • Herman was very diplomatic when discussing his Braves suffering their first loss after reeling off 17-straight wins to start the year:

“What do you do when adversity hits? We talk about it all the time. You do the next right thing. We had adversity tonight, and we didn’t always do the next right thing all the time, so we have the opportunity to do the next right thing and get back on that horse right away on Tuesday.”


  • As for his team not having the pressure of being perfect going into tournament play, Herman said the game was simply a long line of single games that his team played to get better and prepare for tournament play. “I don’t think there was a monkey on our back, and we are one game at a time,” Herman said. “We weren’t successful tonight, but we are going to go back at it Tuesday for one game. That’s all you can do is take them one game at a time, not three or four.”


  • Indian Valley is perhaps the strongest, most athletic and physical team Hiland will face this year. That was why Schlabach was so elated to see his team battle on the boards all night long after getting ruled in the paint in Gnadenhutten earlier this year. “We rebounded the ball as well as we have all year, and for them not to get a lot of easy ones was the key,” Schlabach said. “When our offense was struggling, our defense kept us in the game.”


  • Jamie Herman on any changes the Braves made after facing Hiland earlier this season: “We adjusted to a few of their sets they had success with in the last game, and I thought we defended those well, but we still didn’t make shots, and we allowed their defense to rush us a little bit and put us on our heels.”


  • All season long Kobe Troyer’s scoring has been crucial for Hiland. However, the senior went 0-of-8 from deep in the first half, and thus the Hawks were held under 20 points at intermission. It was no coincidence that the Hawks offense began clicking when he dropped a pair of 3-pointers in the second half. “Kobe hit a shot in the third quarter, and that kind of got us going,” Schlabach said. “When they had to guard him again, that spread them out a bit, and the driving lanes were there.”


  • While both teams made a living at the free throw line, where the Braves went 14-of-19 and the Hawks went 19-of-24, Hiland took 11 free throws in the final eight minutes while Indian Valley shot just one. While it would have been easy to cry “home cooking” in favor of Hiland, Herman was far more diplomatic in his assessment. “We didn’t attack enough and use their defensive intensity against them,” Herman said. “There wasn’t a foul called on them the last seven minutes of the game, and that is because we weren’t attacking enough.”


  • It’s too bad coaches don’t nominate players for All-Ohio status based on their defense, because Hiland guard Andy Miller would be a shoo-in for the way he has dominated on defense this year. Miller drew the chore of guarding Connor McGuire, and just as he has all season, Miller was a game-changer. “The McGuire kid is really good, and Andy was really unbelievable tonight,” Schlabach said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to have him guard you for a whole game. He is elite-level defensively on ball.”
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