Hiland Boys Basketball

Hawks put together a surreal ‘perfect’ half vs. Peebles to reach state tourney

Hiland coach Mark Schlabach has his Hawks flying high all the way to state

One second Peebles was right there battling Hiland in the Div. IV regional final at Ohio University’s Convocation Center Friday, March 15.

Then “poof” they were gone.

In an almost magical game, Hiland put together yet another stunning second half and rode it all the way to Columbus in a stunning 63-31 victory.

In the game the Hawks caught fire and drilled a very impressive 13-of-21 three-point attempts and played what was nearly a perfect second half, leading their head coach Mark Schlabach to marvel at how unique that second half was.

“We made everything we threw up,” said Schlabach, who said the game took on a surreal feel as his Hawks made shot after shot after shot to the point where it was almost ridiculous. “We went up 30, and we were still nervous because there was still five minutes left in the third quarter. It was just a really weird feeling.”

Kendall Hochstetler and Kobe Troyer had kept the Hawks at an even keel with Peebles, even as Tanner Arey was busy shooting the lights out. Arey and Hochstetler matched points with eight apiece, six of Hochstetler’s coming on 3-pointers.

Everyone was settling in for what was shaping up to be a fun ride, but from the middle of the second period until the end of the game, Hiland would go bonkers, outscoring Peebles 47-8 the rest of the way.

How is it that the Hawks completely derailed a team as gifted as Peebles? Peebles was 21-6 for a reason. They had a gifted trio of stars in point guard Weston Browning, superstar shooting guard Arey and post man Blake Hawes.

“That’s a really good team we played tonight, and when you play a really good team, it takes awhile to get a feel for them. The first quarter we had to feel them out. They were a lot quicker than we had given them credit for, and we were grabbing and holding, and it took us time to adjust.”

Peebles had made life somewhat miserable for Hiland through the game’s first 12 minutes by playing staunch defense, swatting away a number of Hiland offerings.

So what happened to turn around a tight game that saw Peebles leading 14-13 through one quarter?

A Kobe Troyer triple had tied the score at 16, and after Hawes, who had hammered home a wicked dunk early in the game, scored inside, the game flow changed with the effort of Hiland leader Scott Troyer.

Scott Troyer had been held scoreless through the game’s first 12 minutes, but when he knocked down a short jumper in the lane, that all changed. All of a sudden it was the Scott Troyer show, and Peebles couldn’t turn the channel from this one-man show. Hiland got two stops, Kobe Troyer canned another 3-pointer and Scott Troyer followed suit for a 24-18 lead. Browning scored inside before Scott Troyer went ballistic, drilling a trio of 3-pointers to give Hiland a 33-23 lead at the half.

“We just kept going to him,” Schlabach said of Scott Troyer’s run. “He had a couple shots blocked, but you’ve got to just keep going to him because he is so important to us.”

“My teammates did a nice job of looking for me, and I just knocked some shots down,” Scott Troyer said after the game.

That would be the end of any type of good news for Peebles as Hiland was about to go into full-out thrash mode.

The Hawks have owned the first few minutes of the second half this season as Schlabach has been able to make some pretty fascinating adjustments. However, few people saw this onslaught coming.

Now instead of Scott Troyer, it was Kobe Troyer who would go nuts. Andy Miller made a steal to begin the half and quickly fed ahead to Kobe Troyer, who was fouled while making a layup. His and-one started a string of him scoring nine straight points to start the half, his final six on consecutive threes, and Hiland led 42-23. One timeout later Miller hit two free throws, and Kobe Troyer added another one. Then KT drained not one but two more 3-pointers to push the lead out to 51-23.

Kobe Troyer, known for his deep range, said he wasn’t shocked to see the Hawks and mostly himself go on a tear from downtown. “You’ve just got to shoot with confidence,” he Troyer said. “You have to expect every shot to go in.”

At 4:23 Browning finally got Peebles on the board again with a single free throw, but the Hawks got a Miller drive, two Scott Troyer free throws and a Hochstetler layup with under one minute to play, which gave the Hawks a huge 59-27 lead.

Eight minutes from Columbus, the Hawks were about to put this one away in style.

Hochstetler scored again inside, and Damien Kandel’s reverse layup pushed the lead to 36 points at 63-27. The running clock was now in play. The game went quickly from there, both teams emptying their benches, and Hiland’s starting crew was able to celebrate on the bench as time ticked down on Peebles’ season.

For a group that many fans thought might struggle to put together a really good season, this group continues to do it with hard work and teamwork. If others are shocked to see them reaching state, they themselves weren’t doubting.

“Even though I don’t get to play much, it is fun to be part of a team, part of something this special,” senior Colten Sommers said. “Just to be a part of such a great group of guys who care about each other means a lot.”

Kobe Troyer ended the night with a career-high 25 points while Scott Troyer added 16, Hochstetler scored 12, Miller tacked on six and Kandel netted four. Arey ended with a team-high 13 points, Hawes scored nine and Browning scored seven, but on a night when Hiland’s offensive fireworks took center stage, it was again the defense that proved to be the glue that held it all together and allowed Hiland to pull away with ease.

After giving up five second-half points to Fairfield Christian Academy in the second half of the regional semifinal, the Hawks clamped down on Peebles in much the same manor, allowing just eight second-half points.

“I love this group, and defensively it’s insane,” said John Sisson, who comes off the bench as the sixth man and adds an extra layer to the already intense on-ball defense Hiland exhibits, led by Miller’s in-your-face presence. “Andy, dude, that kid just works and gasses other kids, and I come in there and keep working them as hard as possible until he can catch is breath, and we just keep working them, and they are usually done for the third and fourth quarter. I thought they started freaking out tonight when we stepped up our defense, and I thought our whole team stepped up again and brought the D.”

Now at 23-5, Hiland advances to the state tournament for the first time since 2012 when the Hawks won the second of back-to-back titles. There they will face the defending state champions, Cornerstone Christian, who belted formerly undefeated Mansfield St. Peter’s 72-56 to win their region. St. Peter’s was one of Hiland’s losses this season, but Hiland is a very different team than it was early in the season.

“We’re going to go to Columbus and play as hard as we can and see what happens,” Kandel said. “We are a very close-knit group, and we believe in ourselves.”

After their crushing second-half performances at regionals, they have made true believers of FCA and Peebles too.

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