Photos by Landon Troyer
Cole Grove Dawson-Bryant got to play both of its district victories at spacious Ohio University Arena, the site of the Div. IV boys regional semifinal tilt with the Hiland Hawks on Tuesday, March 12: Advantage Hornets.
The Hiland Hawks played two incredibly difficult district games against strong opposition in Zanesville Rosecrans and Strasburg, and despite the Hornets having an edge in familiarity at OU, Hiland had the advantage where it mattered the most, on the floor, and the Hawks steamrolled the Hornets 70-39 to get one step closer to a second straight state appearance.
This one was never really in doubt as the Hawks overpowered Dawson-Bryant in every single phase of the game to blow it open early and stay on top big.
Hiland began its assault on Dawson-Bryant when Kody Miller hit Hunter Sommers in stride for a score inside. Hiland got a stop, and Sam Habeger’s put-back made it 4-0 before Aaron Music broke into the scoring column, but the Hawks then went on a 10-0 run.
Andy Miller started it with a 3-pointer, and Korrie Hostetler scored on consecutive trips. Sommers grabbed a steal that led to a Kendall Hochstetler triple and a 14-2 lead. Eventually Habeger’s score inside would spot the Hawks to a 16-4 lead after one quarter, and the Hornets would never come close to threatening.
Hochstetler and Habeger scored early in the second period, but Peyton Smith hit a trey, and Evan Holmes hit inside for Dawson-Bryant. Hiland then really began stretching its advantage out to over 20 points.
Andy Miller scored inside on a drive, Habeger hit on a turn-around jumper, and then Hochstetler blocked two shots and Will Schlabach swatted another one that led to a Hochstetler lay-up and a 26-9 lead. Music scored on a drive, but Hiland then reeled off eight straight, six of those on consecutive triples from Schlabach. A Sommers’ put-back gave Hiland a 34-11 bulge.
A Music and-one allowed the Hornets to sneak back to within 34-13, but Hiland’s dominance was already evident.
Hiland struggled to get rolling early in the second half, and Dawson-Bryant cut into Hiland’s lead. After Hochstetler drove for two, the Hornets went to work carving into the 36-13 deficit. Nate Harmon drove for two, Jalen McKenzie scored on a lay-up following a steal and Evan Gannon nailed a three-ball, and suddenly the lead was down to 16 at 36-20 as the Hawks turned the ball over on four straight possessions.
At that point Hochstetler simply took over to move the needle the other way. After Habeger hit inside, Hochstetler made a steal and went coast to coast for an and-one. Then after a stop, Hochstetler scored on a put-back to quickly build the lead back to 43-20. Music canned a pair of free throws, and Jared Raber scored when Andy Miller threw a long-distance bulls-eye to him for a lay-up.
The sloppy play continued as Hiland committed two turnovers and Andy Miller bricked two free throws, but the Hornets were unable to convert on the other end. Hostetler hit two free throws for a 47-22 Hiland lead. The Hawks continued to be extremely sloppy on offense, turning it over twice and leading to a Music lay-up and a Smith and-one that trimmed the Hornets’ deficit to 47-27.
Sommers then gave Hiland a golden opportunity with an offensive rebound just before the end of the third quarter, and Habeger made it pay off with an and-one that put the Hawks up 50-27 through three periods.
Sommers connected on a trey from the corner and hit on a drive, and Music scored on a pair of drives. Hochstetler and Schlabach then knocked down 3-pointers and gave the Hawks a 61-32 advantage.
Schlabach and Hochstetler each scored on a pair of free throws, and the two teams then started to send the reserves into action. Caden Miller’s lay-up gave Hiland a 70-39 lead, and that is the way it would end.
Hochstetler would pace the Hawks by pouring in 19 points while Habeger put together a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Schlabach scored 11 on the strength of three triples, Sommers played well with nine points and seven rebounds, Hostetler scored four, and Andy Miller added seven points with seven assists and three steals. Kody Miller quietly played a key role, grabbing seven rebounds, playing strong defense and handling the ball well. Music poured in a team-high 18 points to go with seven rebounds for the Hornets while Smith added six and Holmes tacked on five.
While the Hawks shot it well, going a solid 20-of-38 from inside the arc and 7-of-15 beyond it, they were loose with the ball, coughing it up 17 times compared to 13 turnovers for Dawson-Bryant.
However, the biggest advantage for Hiland came on the glass, where it ruled with an iron fist. Hiland hauled down 45 rebounds compared to 19 for Dawson-Bryant, and the Hawks made a killing on second-chance points by reeling in a ton of offensive boards, collecting 18 in all. At one point in the first half, they grabbed offensive caroms on four straight missed shots that eventually led to a Hochstetler score. Hiland ended up posting a large 20-4 edge in second-chance points.
The win improved the Hawks’ overall season record to 23-1, and the Div. IV number-one-ranked team ran its current winning streak to 13 straight victories. Dawson-Bryant bows out of the tournament sporting a 19-7 record.