Lisa Ogi wanted her West Holmes Lady Knights to play a slow-down, poised game. Hiland skipper Dave Schlabach wanted to put the pedal to the metal and go full throttle for 32 minutes.
In a contrast of styles at Hiland High School’s Perry Reese Jr. Community Center Saturday, Dec. 10, two of the state’s most respected and accomplished programs squared off, and Hiland left little doubt as to its immense talent, as the Lady Hawks made the game go lightning-quick, and sped to a 77-19 victory.
For the first portion of the first quarter, it looked like West Holmes was going to use its trademark half-court defense to hang around. After Tiffany Weaver got Hiland on top 2-0 and teammate Jessica Troyer scored on a jumper, Kaylor Perone scored for West Holmes to make it 4-2. Angela Troyer then tossed in a 3-pointer for Hiland, but Perone answered in kind, and when Sammie Hall split two free throws, Hiland’s lead was just 7-6.
That was when the torrential whirlwind that is the Lady Hawks’ chosen style of play kicked into high gear.
Angela Troyer hit two free throws, Kennedy Schlabach dropped in a floater along the baseline and then she drained a triple to make it 14-6. Hiland’s high-pressure defense was speeding up the game, and when West Holmes did manage to get off a shot, they were rushing them. Taylor Yerian hit a free throw for West Holmes to make it 14-7, but with time winding down, Hiland’s Morgan McMillen made a tremendous play, splitting two West Holmes defenders and hitting Weaver with a perfect bounce pass for a 18-7 Hiland lead through one quarter.
The second quarter was vintage Hiland basketball, as the pace of play grew even faster.
“We are not quick,” Patterson said. “We had trouble guarding at every position.”
McMillen buried a trey, and after a score from Lady Knights guard Celeste Ryman made it 21-9, Hiland went on a 12-0 tear to blow it open. Angela Troyer scored on a beautiful reverse lay-up, Jessica Troyer nailed two free throws, Angela Troyer drove the paint again, McMillen scored inside and Schlabach hit a mid-range jumper. When Angela Troyer blitz her way inside and scored again, Hiland was up 33-9.Perone knocked down another jumper and Kaylee Evans split two free throws, but Weaver’s score near the end of the half moved Hiland’s lead to 35-12 at the break.
“I thought our post game was not only good offensively, but they were contesting a lot of shots,” Schlabach said of building the big lead. “We can only transition if we get defensive rebounds.”
Hiland did rebound, and they certainly transitioned, flying down the court at every opportunity, pushing the issue and focusing on the continuation of the up-tempo style of play it sought to impose on West Holmes.
“The kids are buying into playing fast,” Schlabach said. “We thought we played fast the last couple of years, but we weren’t playing fast. This is fast, and we are getting easy stuff off of it.”
McMillen and Schlabach came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, and Hiland effectively put this one to bed. Schlabach’s three-ball made it 42-12, and the Hiland defense had completely taken the Lady Knights out of any kind of offensive rhythm. Perone scored her final bucket to make it 58-17, but McMillen scored 10-straight points, including two 3-pointers, to ignite another Hiland run.
“We’re mediocre right now, but it is a long season,” Ogi said. “The good news is that it is the regular season. They know that athletically we are not the most athletic team. So therefore we have to outwork people, and tonight that didn’t happen, not even remotely close.” Schlabach led all scorers with 23 points, while McMillen added 19, Angela Troyer scored 13, Jessica Troyer added nine and Weaver pitched in with six. For West Holmes, Kaylor Perone was the lone Lady Knight to find success, scoring a team-high nine points. Taylor Yerian added four points. While West Holmes’ 18 turnovers may be a lot for a team, with the way Hiland’s pressure defense harasses teams, 18 was actually a low number for the Lady Knights in terms of giving away the rock.
Hiland held a huge 44-14 edge on the glass, as it used it speed and quickness and put itself in position to be successful on the glass. Weaver and Angela Troyer led the way for Hiland with eight boards, while McMillen added seven. Jessica Troyer recorded seven assists, while Schlabach added five.