Hiland Girls Basketball

Lady Hawks continue stranglehold on IVC with 71-24 win over Warriors

'D'licious win as Lady Hawks rout Warriors

All season long Hiland head coach Dave Schlabach has been worried about his team’s lack of an outside presence. The Lady Hawks didn’t have to look past the end of the bench to solve that issue.

On Saturday, Jan. 27 at the Reese Center at Hiland High School, the Lady Hawks once again dismantled Inter-Valley South challenger Buckeye Trail (12-4) by clocking them 71-24 to maintain its death grip on the IVC South lead.

One of the keys to victory was the ongoing recovery of All-Ohioan Morgan McMillen, whose knee injury late this past summer put her on the shelf for months.

Coach Schlabach has used McMillen on limited minutes as she reintroduces herself to the game, and along the way she has added a new dimension to the Lady Hawks’ attack.

Last year McMillen was a bruiser in the paint, a hustler all over the court who played a complete game. While coach Schlabach said his star’s play might not be anywhere near what it was last season, her recovery has been remarkable, and what she has done since coming back is light it up from downtown while adding a great passing dimension to the Lady Hawks’ formula.

“Morgan can shoot it and pass it well, and those are two things that are only going to make us better,” coach Schlabach said. “She knows right now there are a few things she won’t be able to do that she used to be able to do, but she already makes us a whole lot better.”

Over the past four games since Classic in the Country, McMillen has gone 10-of-22 from 3-point land, and that has helped in two ways. One, it has opened up things in the paint, where bigs Tiffany Weaver, Zoe Miller and Kelsey Swihart and guards like Kennedy Schlabach, Morgan Yoder and Bryn Mullet, who like to penetrate, can get to the bucket. It also doesn’t allow teams to turn their full attention on Kennedy Schlabach from the outside.

Two, it has given the Lady Hawks a chance to envision what this team was going to look like before McMillen and Weaver went down with injuries. Weaver is nearly at full strength while McMillen continues to inch closer.

“Getting everyone back makes us a whole lot deeper and allows us to bring Morgan [Yoder], Bryn [Mullet] and Kelsey off the bench. The bench just got a lot better. This is the team we saw play all summer, so it feels good to have them all back together again.”

As for the game, it was closer than the earlier encounter, but there was still no doubt as to the outcome. In the earlier contest Buckeye Trail was treated to a dose of Lady Hawks defense at their place earlier this year in a 75-14 bashing that saw Hiland hold the Warriors scoreless in the first half.

When Jenni Carmichael drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 3-3, she made sure the Warriors would not suffer a repeat performance of that first game, but Hiland ruled the final five minutes of the first quarter. Weaver and Miller sandwiched four points apiece around a McMillen three-ball, and Hiland led 14-3 at the first turn. The Lady Hawks continued their first-half rampage, completing a 26-1 run that pushed the lead to 29-4. Weaver was a key cog in that run, as were Swihart, Sara Keim and Kennedy Schlabach. McMillen’s neat little fake-and-under move in the paint eventually allowed Hiland to claim a 32-7 lead at the break.

Weaver scored twice inside to begin the third period, and then Kennedy Schlabach went to work, scoring nine of her 13 points in the third period. Krista Troyer scored six second-half points, and Kyli Horn made a couple of gorgeous moves down the lane. The Lady Hawks cruised to a win that kept them perfect in the IVC South and 13-4 overall.

Hiland’s half-court defense again proved to be the biggest influence on the outcome of the game as the Lady Hawks held a talented Buckeye Trail team to just 7-of-39 shooting on the night.

“We’ve got our rim protectors back, so when we do get beat, we’ve got kids there to block shots and defend, and our help defense has been strong all year,” coach Schlabach said.

Weaver led all scorers with 15 points and added five rebounds and three blocked shots. Schlabach ended with 13 points and added five assists and five steals. Swihart was fantastic, collecting eight boards to go with eight points in just 11 minutes. McMillen scored eight points, Morgan Yoder tacked on seven points, Troyer and Miller both scored six points, and Horn added four points. Sam Canner scored 10 points to pace the Warriors, adding five rebounds, while Carmichael scored six and Rylie Smith scored five.

Hiland’s recent four-game stretch of IVC South blowout wins has given the Lady Hawks a chance to build minutes up for Weaver and McMillen as they continue their comeback bids.

“Hopefully come tournament time we get back to close to full strength,” coach Schlabach said.

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