After having watched the Newcomerstown Trojans hang around them for a long while in their first confrontation in Inter-Valley Conference play earlier this season, Mark Schlabach told his Hiland Hawks that he wanted to put the Trojans behind the eight ball early in their return engagement on Senior Night at Hiland High School Tuesday, February 21.
Eight minutes into the game it was evident that the Hawks took him to heart. Eight minutes after that Hiland led at the intermission 39-10, and all doubt was erased as to which team would emerge the victory. Hiland did so in an impressive 76-39 victory.
“We wanted to put this game away as soon as possible tonight, so we were very pleased to see a good flow on offense, and defensively we were pretty focused and pretty good in the first half.”
Coming off a devastating loss to Garaway on a last-second shot, the Hawks were hoping to erase the memories of that game and charge toward the tournament with renewed confidence.
“Sometimes in a big loss like we had at Garaway, that next game your confidence is a little shaken, but our guys really didn’t have that shakiness. They came out with confidence and played strong.”
Hiland got its wish to get off to a strong start with a 21-point first quarter that saw Andy Miller bury a pair of threes, Scott Troyer hit another and Chris Kline poured in eight points to spot the Hawks to a 21-8 edge.
Then the Hawks simply turned it up a couple of notches on defense and really let loose.
With the frenetic defensive effort limiting the Trojans to two second quarter points, senior Turner Horn took over the game. Horn scored in about every way imaginable, racking up three scores on lay-ups or jumpers, a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws. Johnny Sisson added four points in the quarter and Hiland led 39-10 at the break.
That lead only grew larger as the Hawks came screaming out of the locker room to push the advantage to as many as 38-points.
One thing Schlabach stressed at the break was getting sharp-shooter Kobe Troyer more involved with the offense. The Hawks listened, finding their teammate for some great looks, and Troyer responded by knocking down five second-half triples.
“Kobe didn’t have any points at the half, and we told the kids we wanted to make a concerted effort to get Kobe some good shots without forcing it,” Schlabach said. “Our guys did that.”
Horn ended the night with 17 points, Kobe Troyer added 15, all on threes, Kline pitched in with 14, Andy Miller scored nine and Scott Troyer and Sisson added six apiece. Talented Bryce Barbara scored 16 points to pace the Trojans, while George Brode added 11.
Schlabach said getting that loss put aside and heading into the tournament with some momentum is a plus, although the Hawks will have a 10-day lay-off before they play Barnesville at home March 3.
That can be tough, but it does give Hiland forward Damien Kandel a chance to recuperate after severely twisting his ankle at practice.
“It was bad,” Schlabach said of Kandel’s injury. We’ll have to wait and see, but DK has been an integral part of our rotation this year, and we hope to have him back.”
Hiland finishes the regular season at 18-4, having finished tied for second in the IVC behind champion Strasburg. The Hawks also received the number two seed in the Div. III East 2 sectional/district tournament, making it an all-around solid campaign for this year’s crew.
However, all of that matters little now as the team prepares for a second season that they hope will see them make a significant tournament run.