Hiland Boys Basketball

Hawks survive a punch in the gut to take down Redskins 57-22

Kendall Hochstetler

It is not only quite possible that the Hiland Hawks, the top-ranked team in Div. IV and the East district’s number-one seed, were looking right past the Caldwell Redskins, head coach Mark Schlabach was fairly certain that was the case.

With the Redskins down their top two scorers including a 1,000-point scorer, Caldwell trotted out a skeleton team filled with a bunch of sophomores and freshmen in what was a daunting task.

It took Hiland a full quarter to shake off the idea that this was going to be a rout with the Redskins coming out on fire, active and banging on all cylinders, but Hiland turned a tight game into a blowout in a 57-22 sectional title victory.

“We were going through the motions,” Schlabach said. “Hopefully our guys learned a little lesson there. I think we knew their leading scorer was not playing, and our guys relaxed and didn’t stay focused like they needed to.”

Knowing they were in a tough spot, Caldwell head coach Clint Crane said he couldn’t be happier with his young group’s play early because they didn’t back down to the challenge.

“We were kind of up against it, but we played hard, and I was really happy with our kids’ effort,” Crane said. “Coming into this environment under this situation and playing shorthanded is not ideal, but I think it was a terrific learning experience for our kids.”

Hiland’s 22nd sectional crown in the past 23 years may have been easy, but it didn’t look to be the case in the first eight minutes. An athletic and youthful Redskins team was flying all over the court, beating Hiland to loose balls, pulling down numerous offensive boards and making it look like they meant to upset the Hawks.

Tanner Devolld scored twice inside around a Kendall Hochstetler three-ball to give the Redskins the early lead. Will Schlabach hit a 3-pointer, and Andy Miller scored on a steal to push Hiland ahead 8-4, but Caldwell battled back to knot things at 10-apiece on Mat Kowalsky’s score in the paint. Hochstetler scored on a fast break, Korrie Hostetler was on the receiving end of a nice lob pass from Andy Miller and Schlabach scored on a steal to make it 16-10 before Logan Heller’s two free throws ended the quarter with Hiland ahead just 16-12.

“I don’t think we boxed out one time,” Schlabach said of the less than spectacular first period. “We were not very focused on that end of the floor early, but we got better as the game went on.”

That, for all intents and purposes, was the extent of Caldwell’s scoring for the night as Hiland decided it needed to step up its game. The Hawks clamped down and allowed just 10 points to the Redskins over the final three periods.

Basically the game went from a 10-10 tie to a 47-15 Hiland rout in a run that sucked every bit of energy right out of the Reese Center as the two teams played out the final 12 minutes with a running clock.

Taking on the challenge the Redskins offered, the Hawks went to work on both ends. Sam Habeger scored inside, Hochstetler dropped a three, Habeger added two free throws and Hochstetler scored on a drive off a steal to open up a 25-12 lead.

Hochstetler knocked down another 3-pointer and scored off a steal. Heller finally found the bucket on a drive with under two minutes to play to get Caldwell off the snide, but Andy Miller’s triple ended the half with the Hawks leading 33-14.

“We hope that we can get locked in defensively like that,” Schlabach said. “We went Andy [Miller] and Jared [Raber] together in the second quarter, which obviously makes a difference for us. Our defense picked up.”

Upon returning from the locker rooms, both teams were greeted by a ghost town as the energy of the first quarter had long left the gym. Hiland scoring, however, was still quite readily available.

Meanwhile the Hawks ran bodies in and out all night to wear down the Redskins.

“That’s their game,” Crane said. “They are going to run nine or 10 guys at you and wear you down. They are going to make you play their pace, and eventually they will take control, which is what they did.”

Habeger scored inside before Hunter Sommers simply took over the game. The junior scored inside, scored off a put-back, drove the lane for two off of a Hostetler steal and hit two free throws. Then after Schlabach hit a short pull-up jumper, Sommers drove again for two, rounding out a personal 10-point spree that pushed Hiland’s lead to 47-14.

“Hunter made some really nice plays for us and was very aggressive,” Schlabach said.

Eventually the Hawks parked their starters on the bench and went to the second- and third-string substitutions, and a quick fourth period saw Hiland sew up the win.

For Hiland it was about moving on. For the Redskins it was gaining valuable experience for a youthful group that Crane said has even more talent moving up from eighth grade next season.

“It’s exciting to look at what we have coming back,” Crane said. “We just have to continue to work hard to get better. This group is going to be a lot of fun to watch as they mature.”

Heller scored six points to lead Caldwell while Hiland got 15 from Hochstetler, 12 from Sommers, 10 from Schlabach, nine from Andy Miller and 6 from Habeger.

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