Basketball

Lady Hawks’ big 2nd quarter leads to 62-43 win over Redbirds

Two of the area's best go head-to-head

Loudonville (15-4) wanted to get tested in their girls varsity basketball game at Hiland High School on Saturday, Feb. 2.

It did.

The Lady Hawks (16-1) wanted to remove a sour taste of a lackluster effort from their mouth.

It happened.

Hiland got off to a nice start in this confrontation between two of the area’s top teams and rode a huge second half to a 62-43 win that saw the Redbirds play pretty well in the second half, while despite shooting the ball poorly, the Lady Hawks put forth a strong effort overall in a game that should have helped both teams.

“Hiland is so well-coached. They execute so well and did some things against us that we want to see,” Loudonville head coach Tyler Bates said. “When you play a team like this, you have to do about everything correctly to give yourself a chance to win. Unfortunately we didn’t do that, but I saw some really positive things that were a step in the right direction for us. That is why you want to play great teams.”

For Hiland, head coach Dave Schlabach saw his team give what he felt was a grossly underachieving effort in their 13-point win over Garaway three nights earlier, so he was looking for a return to a big effort. He felt he got it from his Lady Hawks.

“We played hard,” Schlabach said of his team. “We played well overall. Shots on open looks just didn’t fall for us tonight. If we make some of those, we win bigger, but our ball movement was excellent. We swung the ball to kids who were wide open, and we just didn’t make shots we normally make.”

The numbers would attest to that, where Hiland went an ugly 4-of-21 from beyond the arc. The only problem for Loudonville was they were even worse, connecting on just 3-of-24 from deep.

After the teams traded scores, Hiland reeled off an 8-2 run, getting two points apiece from Aila Miller, Zoe Miller, Kyli Horn and Kendra Shetler around an and-one from feisty Redbirds guard Nikki Weber.

Loudonville responded with scores from Grace Vermilya, who picked up a loose ball and laid it in, and a Weber steal and score.

Hiland then went on a nice 9-0 run, led by Brynn Mullet’s five points before Emily Seboe ended a physical and fast-paced first quarter with Hiland leading 19-11.

“Hiland came out ready to play, and we didn’t match their intensity,” Bates said. “They got all the 50/50 balls early, especially in the second quarter, and I thought that was pretty much the game because from there out we were pretty even from a competition standpoint. I felt like we gave some good effort on the glass tonight. It was those loose balls off of missed shots that we weren’t chasing down that hurt us.”

Then came a pivotal second quarter that saw the Lady Hawks click on all cylinders. Zoe Miller scored inside, and Weber answered in kind. Then Hiland ran off 12 straight to take command. Krista Troyer drove for two, Morgan Yoder hit a runner in the lane, Zoe Miller split two free throws, Shetler hit a remarkably athletic reverse lay-up and scored again off a steal, and Jenna Troyer knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Lady Hawks a 33-13 lead.

“Kendra has played well this year, but this was maybe the best game she has played to date,” Schlabach said of his junior post player, who has quietly become a force inside on both ends.

In danger of losing sight of Hiland, Redbirds’ leading scorer Celeste Ryman stepped up and finally shook free for a score off a drive and a trey before Zoe Miller worked her way into the paint with eight seconds in the half and connected for an and-one that gave the Lady Hawks a 36-18 half-time advantage.

Hiland continued to stretch that lead out to 23 points before things would get better for Loudonville. Shetler hit Krista Troyer with a picture-perfect assist, and Weber drove for a score. Then Aila Miller connected twice inside, and Shetler struck again for a 46-23 Hiland lead. Weber drove home a triple, but Zoe Miller answered with one of her own, and after Weber split two free throws, Aila Miller accepted a stunning assist from Zoe Miller to give Hiland its largest lead of the night at 51-27.

Loudonville then began chipping away at the lead. Vermilya scored twice inside, Aila Miller hit a baseline jumper and Emily Seboe connected on two free throws and a 3-pointer to trim the deficit to 53-36, but Shetler again came up big, scoring courtesy of a wonderful pass from Jenna Troyer to end the third period.

After Mullet scored on a long trey, Loudonville began picking up its half-court pressure, forcing Hiland into a pair of turnovers that resulted in two free throws and an and-one from Emily Seboe that made it 58-41.

That was as close as it would get as Hiland ran some clock well down the stretch, and both benches played out the final minute.

With a young group of underclassmen, Schlabach said his team has at numerous times this season played to the level of its competition. However, he saw something different here, especially in the first half and into the third period when the Lady Hawks took command.

After rolling through the Inter-Valley Conference South schedule with ease, Schlabach said he is excited about the final four games of the year, which will feature this Loudonville team, Tusky Valley, which is fighting for the Inter-Valley Conference North title, a scrappy Div. I Magnificat team and state power Westerville South, which boasts two Div. I college recruits.

“We need to experience good competition, and we are going to get it late in the year,” Schlabach said. “I am pleased with the effort we put forth today, and even though we didn’t shoot it well, we did a lot of good things.”

Bates said the tempo of the game and the pressure of playing Div. III’s third-ranked Hiland team was great for his girls too. He was pleased that his team created some easy scores off of turnovers in the second half, and they went toe to toe with Hiland.

“I was a little concerned about our second-quarter effort, but I told the girls at half-time we were going to learn a lot about our team with the way we came out in the second half,” Bates said. “I am proud of the way they came out and battled and competed and gave a solid effort to keep us in the game. There is no shame in a loss to this team on this floor. It made us better because there is no better small-school team in Ohio than Hiland.”

The Redbirds would be led in scoring and rebounding by Weber, who racked up a strong effort with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Emily Seboe added 10 points and five boards while Ryman was limited to seven points, although the point guard grabbed seven rebounds. Vermilya added six for the Redbirds.

Hiland was paced by a pair of double-doubles. Zoe Miller scored 15 points and snared 12 rebounds while Shetler notched 12 points to go with 10 boards before fouling out late. Aila Miller nearly made it three double-doubles with an eight-point, seven-rebound effort while Mullet added 10 points and Krista Troyer scored six.

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