For the entire first half, the Malvern Hornets were every bit up to challenging Inter-Valley Conference leader and state ranked Hiland when the Lady Hawks traveled to Malvern on Wednesday, February 1.
However, like they have done so many times before, the Lady Hawks’ relentless tempo simply wore down an opponent, and turned a one-point deficit late in the first half into a solid 63-44 win over a very good Hornets team.
Malvern is not the first team to toy with the idea of pulling off a monster upset over the Div. IV top-ranked Lady Hawks, only to see those hopes vanish on a heartbeat.
That is about how long it took for Hiland to take command of a very tight contest, and the takeover happened in whirlwind fashion over the first couple of minutes during the third quarter.
Malvern had fought and clawed throughout the game’s first 14 minutes, answering every Hiland bucket with one of its own. Each time Kennedy Schlabach or Sara Keim knocked down a three-ball, there was Hornets’ post player Kelsi Hulit to pound her way inside for a score or two, and Malvern’s effort on defense was worthy of the 28-27 lead it had garnered with just under two minutes left to play.
However, it was at that point when the lady Hawks took flight, led by Jessica Troyer, who scored a bucket, fed Keim for another, and Angela Troyer knocked down a short shot, giving Hiland a 33-28 half-time lead. The one thing about Hiland is that head coach Dave Schlabach’s troops speed up the game so fast it tends to wear teams down, and Malvern’s biggest weakness is that it is not very deep.
So when Hiland came storming out of the locker room and capped off a 14-0 run from the end of the second quarter to the start of the third, it put the Hornets behind the eight ball. The second half surge was led by Morgan McMillen, who was quiet in the first half, having scored just two points. McMillen hit back-to-back threes then scored on a jumper to give the Lady Hawks some breathing room at 41-28.
Still, Malvern never folded, as Hulit continued to batter Hiland in the paint. Her and-one drew Malvern within 43-34, before Schlabach hit from downtown, not once but twice, to allow Hiland to gain a 49-34 lead.
After getting steals form Jessica Troyer, Keim, Schlabach and Angela Troyer that all turned into points, Hiland eventually pushed its lead out to 21 points at 57-36, and although Hulit continued to prove to be nearly unstoppable, Hiland prevailed after the first-half challenge.
The victory marked Hiland’s 47th straight win in the Inter-Valley Conference, and put the Lady Hawks on the brink of collecting the program’s 22nd straight league crown. The Lady Hawks would clinch an outright IVC championship with a win over Strasburg Saturday, February 4.
Hulit had a masterful game for Malvern, pouring in a game-high 27 points to go with 10 rebounds. Hiland was paced by Schlabach, who hammered home five triples en route to a 23-point night. McMillen recovered to add a 19-point, 10-rebound effort, while Keim and Angela Troyer both tacked on 10 points.
While the Hornets lost, their effort on Senior Night was quite commendable.