Hiland Boys Basketball

Hawks use smothering defense to take down bigger Titans

Hawks 'D' it up on Titans in big win

Coming into the Jan. 20 boys basketball contest between Hiland and Triway at the Reese Center in Berlin, Titans head coach Ben Holt and Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach both agreed on one key concept that would be advantageous to the Titans.

Triway had a big advantage in the paint with its height, so Schlabach and his coaching staff utilized a defensive strategy that had less to do with guarding the bigs and more to do with defending the accompanying Titans’ guards.

Hiland flustered Triway’s guards all night, forcing them into a very uncomfortable situation well beyond where Holt wanted his offense to set up, and that resulted in a Hawks defensive effort that paved the way for a 51-33 victory.

“Triway’s guards were fighting for every dribble,” Schlabach said. “When they are so worried about how are guards are defending, it is hard to make good post entry passes and get the ball where you want it to go, so a lot of the credit [in stopping the big men] has to go to our guards.”

“It’s tough getting into the paint against them,” Holt said. “They get you out farther than you want to start your offense. I wasn’t upset with our effort. I thought our execution wasn’t great, and we got pushed off the block too much and pushed off the wing too much. But in the end you give them credit.”

The first couple of minutes of play to begin the game would foreshadow the entire contest. Triway had to work the ball for long periods of time, and when it did manage to get it inside, Hiland made it difficult for them to score.

Hiland got out to an 8-2 lead as Triway struggled to find the bottom of the net, although the Hawks weren’t lighting it up either. Braden Biggs drew the Titans to within 8-4, but Scott Troyer’s jumper gave Hiland a 10-4 lead through one quarter.

Triway’s Jordan Stokes helped keep Triway close at 17-13 in the second quarter, but again the Hawks finished out the scoring for a half when Andy Miller drove for two to give Hiland a 19-13 edge at the half.

“At the beginning I felt we did a pretty good job of getting the shots we wanted,” Holt said. “We had some two-foot shots and got some offensive rebounds, and one possession we missed three straight layups. You’ve go to make those.”

Having struggled immensely, Holt felt his team was actually in pretty good shape down just six.

Things would get closer to start the third period when Bo Flinner scored five straight points to trim Hiland’s advantage to 23-20. However, the Hawks went on an 11-1 run as Troyer continued his recent scoring surge by scoring eight points in the run.

Flinner’s 3-pointer gave Triway hope heading into the fourth quarter down 36-25, but Troyer was about to take over, hitting two threes and a jumper. Triway’s Bryce Biggs tried to keep the Titans within shouting distance by nailing a pair of triples, but Hiland’s defensive pressure was wearing the Titans down. Damien Kandel scored on Troyer’s long assist, Troyer then drove for a score and Kendall Hochstetler hit a trey after Kandel kept yet another ball alive with an offensive rebound.

Now the Hawks were up 20 points at 51-31, and it was over.

“I thought our kids were locked in tonight, and we have a chance now to get on a nice roll,” Schlabach said of his Hawks. “I was pleased with how locked in our guys were.”

Schlabach said this was a big victory because Hiland has struggled against its better opponents this season. He said the one big win his team has over a top opponent is John Glenn, which is why he felt this win will help solidify his team’s performance to date.

Schlabach said the credit for this big win would go to the defensive play of his guards and the hustle of Kandel in the paint. Kandel was all over the place, keeping balls alive and defending down low, where he and Hochstetler had the chore of keeping Stokes and Gabe Walker in check.

But the biggest difference-maker was the defense of guards John Sisson, Troyer, Miller and Jared Raber. Miller has played the role of defensive stopper, but Schlabach said he is utilizing the spirited play of Raber more and more to give his star defender a rest.

“You can only do what Andy does for so long,” Schlabach said of Miller’s incredible defensive play. “It’s not humanly possible to do that for extended periods of time. We needed to get him some more breaks, and Jared is a similar-type player, and he has played so well on the JV team that we wanted to give him some minutes, and he has done really well.”

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