While nobody expected the varsity girls basketball game between host Hiland and visiting Tuscarawas Central Catholic to be close, and it wasn’t in a 79-18 Lady Hawks win, both teams went into the game hoping to earn some quality time working on things that were going to make them better.
While Hiland head coach Dave Schlabach had to make a beeline for his car immediately after the game to catch his daughter’s college game at Ohio Dominican, he had to have been thrilled with the way his team performed. So too was Saints head coach Greg Triplett, who said the score was secondary in this contest.
Both teams accomplished exactly that in the game that saw TCC present some encouraging moments that even had the Hiland coaching staff talking about them after the game.
“That is a much-improved Saints team,” Hiland assistant coach David Borter said. “They played hard, and they have gotten a lot better this season.”
Coming into the game, Triplett said he talked to his team about one thing, and that was the opportunity they had in coming to Hiland, one of Ohio’s premier small-school teams.
“When I took this job, I looked at this game and got excited for it. Because for us it is a great practice,” Triplett said. “We could bring our best boys athletes in who aren’t playing basketball at TCC for a practice, and we aren’t going to get as much benefit out of that as we do this game. I don’t care about the score. I care about the effort, and outside of the last two or three minutes, which I thought were lousy, it was a great practice for us.”
Hiland got to work on a half-court trapping defense that caused the Saints to turn the ball over 32 times. It also allowed Schlabach to work in a couple of youngsters who filled in for the ailing Krista Troyer and Kylee Horn. Those two youngsters, Jenna Troyer and Jalyce Clark, produced some quality play for the Lady Hawks.
“Neither looked out of place out there,” Borter said. “The more we can find time to create productive minutes and develop depth is a plus.”
Borter said at the half they talked about creating more post touches for their bigs inside. That led to a ton of second-half points for Zoe Miller and Kendra Shetler, and it also opened up the outside for Hiland’s shooters.
Hiland roared out to a 27-5 advantage through one quarter on the strength of Shetler and point-guard Morgan Yoder, who knocked down four 3-pointers in the game.
TCC got scores from Anette Weston and Reagan Triplett to trim the deficit to 29-9 and forced Schlabach to call time-out. That message was heard loud and clear as Hiland went on a 19-0 run to end the half leading 48-9. During that spree Zoe Miller and Brynn Mullet each collected five points as did Troyer.
The half may have come to an end, but the string of consecutive points for Hiland didn’t. The Lady Hawks reeled off a 15-0 third quarter that made it a 34-point spree. Shetler and Zoe Miller continued to get their points inside as Hiland maintained that momentum throughout the fourth quarter, which saw Hiland’s Abbey Miller and TCC’s Sage Winnie match points with four apiece. Shelby Miller also canned a trey for the Lady Hawks.
Zoe Miller scored a game-high 23 points to go with nine boards for Hiland while Shetler added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Yoder scored a dozen points and added eight assists while freshman Aila Miller grabbed 10 rebounds. Weston racked up eight points to lead the Saints while Winnie added six.
However, the big story was rebounding, and once again the Lady Hawks tore the boards apart, creating a 65-27 edge on the glass that saw Hiland rip down 41 offensive rebounds.
That tenacious rebounding dynamic has now been instilled in this team.
“Dave told the girls that this can be the greatest rebounding team he has ever had, and that is saying a lot because we have had some terrific rebounders here over the years,” Borter said. “A lot of this is strength and desire. A lot of it is technique, and they do a great job of anticipating. They have really bought into it, and there is a trickle-down effect to that mind-set.”
“This game has helped prepare us for the future,” Triplett said. “We have a string of eight games coming up now in which we can really be competitive and win. I told our girls we took a great step tonight in ensuring that we compete in those eight games.”
Coming off of a 4-19 season, the Saints now stand at 7-5 on the year and have taken huge strides.
“We are learning how to compete and win, and we are looking forward to the second half of the season, where we can go out and compete hard,” Triplett said. “This was an outstanding opportunity for our girls.”