· Basketball - Holmes County ·

Hawks use physical play on both ends of the floor to take down Pirates 50-32

Hiland deals on defense as Hawks and Pirates renew a spirited rivalry

Coming into their contest with Garaway on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center in Berlin, Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach was concerned about slowing down a Garaway Pirates team that has racked up a ton of points this season by pushing the ball up the floor.

It turned out Hiland’s half-court defense was just the thing to disrupt that game plan. Hiland forced Garaway into a large number of turnovers, and the Hawks blew open this rivalry game at the start of the second period and ran away to a 50-32 victory.

“They are so good in transition, and you saw a few times they beat us in transition, and we came in figuring we had to slow the tempo down,” Schlabach said. “For us to be able to slow them down was a big part of the game and a big part of our success because they can fly up and down the floor.”

Garaway head coach Terry Rowe said it was a lesson that he hopes his team can take with them as they move forward.

“We definitely didn’t play to our ability tonight,” Rowe said. “We have to have more toughness, more grit in getting the shot we want every time down the floor. Also we need to get more stops in this type of game.”

The early going was exactly what everyone thought this game might become. Both teams battled hard, and the Hawks held an 8-7 lead after Garaway’s Austin Fearon drained a 3-pointer.

Then came perhaps the most pivotal point of the game as the Hawks went on a run that would build a lead it would never relinquish.

Sam Habeger produced yet again from inside for his third bucket of the quarter, and Hunter Sommers split two free throws and then roared down the lane and knocked down a tough runner to beat the buzzer for a 13-7 Hiland lead through one period.

The quarter might have ended, but Hiland’s run of dominance hadn’t.

The Hawks went right back to Habeger inside to start the quarter, Jared Raber drove baseline right for a score, Kendall Hochstetler hammered a 3-pointer, and Andy Miller and Habeger each drove for scores. Hiland was in command 24-7, stunning the Garaway faithful.

While the Hawks scored, it was their relentless defense that proved to be the key, and for the second straight game, coach Schlabach was thrilled with his team’s defensive effort.

“We have played our two best defensive games the last two games in a row (Garaway and Indian Valley wins),” Schlabach said. “Our guys have really been locked in to the scouting report and the fundamentals of things we need to be good at.”

While the Hawks were flying all over the place defensively, Rowe said the speed, quickness and hustle Hiland exhibited wasn’t a surprise, and he felt they were ready for that. Besides, the Pirates boast some quickness themselves in guards Corey Troyer and Fearon. He said another aspect of the game hurt them more than the speed.

“I think the physicality more than anything hurt us,” Rowe said. “It was us not finishing through contact and not being strong with the basketball more than anything.”

Garaway seemed to right the ship momentarily when Corey Troyer hit two free throws and Erik Miller scored off the drive, but Hiland regained the momentum when a set play went to Hochstetler, who canned a three-ball at the buzzer to give Hiland a 27-11 edge.

“We did a nice job of finding mismatches, and when they had opportunities to make plays, we found them in the right spots,” Schlabach said.

The Pirates came out and went right into the paint to Ethan Roden, who was fouled and made two free throws, but Habeger drove for two, as did Kody Miller. Hochstetler then drilled another triple to push the Hiland lead to its largest at 34-13. Garaway finished the third quarter strong when Roden split two free throws and Fearon dropped a trey around a Kody Miller put-back. Then Pirates junior Austin Miller nailed a 3-pointer as time expired in the quarter to get the Pirates back to within 36-20.

The teams traded a pair of scores to start the final frame before the Hawks went to work and put this one to bed. Sommers hit another free throw, Kody Miller drove for two and Fearon scored on a drive, but when Hochstetler completed an and-one, Hiland held a 21-point lead, so the two teams emptied their benches soon after.

One key factor turned out to be Hiland’s domination on the glass. The Hawks had multiple possessions kept alive with offensive boards and did a nice job containing Garaway on the defensive glass. That fact did not escape Schlabach and his staff.

“We had three possessions total where we didn’t feel like we did a good job on the board, and we will take that any time,” Schlabach said.

Obviously this was not the way any of the Pirates foresaw this rivalry game playing out, and Rowe said there are plenty of things to take away form the game despite the ugliness of it.

“We have to get better from this game,” Rowe said. “This obviously wasn’t the outcome we wanted. We have to show more grit the entire game, and we have to use this to progress forward so that we are playing our best basketball at the end of the season. This is one of those nights where we can’t change the outcome, but we can change how we go forward from here.”

Hochstetler led all scorers with 16 points while Habeger added 14 and Sommers and Kody Miller each tacked on six for the Hawks. The Pirates got 15 point from Fearon, seven from Roden and five from Erik Miller.

Hiland moves to 11-1 on the year and remains undefeated in Inter-Valley Conference South play while Garaway suffered its first loss of the season, falling to 9-1 and 5-1 in league play.

Coach Schlabach on shutting down sharpshooter Erik Miller

“He gets it off as quickly as anybody I have seen at the high school level. You have got to be on him on the catch or just don’t let him catch it at all.”

Coach Rowe on Hiland shutting down their penetration

“We knew that some of those things from different angles would be taken away just by the way they play. That was compounded where we got out of what we wanted just because we were playing catch-up.”

Coach Schlabach on senior Hawk Kody Miller

“Kody’s best game of the year in a big game. He was great. These games a lot of times come down to that one kid on either team that you don’t think about who ends up having a huge game, and that ended up being him tonight.”

Coach Schlabach on his team’s even temperament

“I thought we didn’t get emotional. We stayed even keel and stuck to the game plan. We have made that mistake in the past, but this group has been pretty good about being even keel, and that was an emphasis tonight.”

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