Hiland Girls Basketball

Lady Hawks emerge victorious over Dragons 50-44 in an epic regional tilt

Zoe Miller's effort helps Lady Hawks gain a comeback win over Dragons

Two teams entered the March 7 East District Div. III regional semifinal with their eyes on advancing to face perennial state favorite Africentric in the finals.

Both the Hiland Lady Hawks (22-4) and Proctorville Fairland Dragons (23-3) knew they were good enough to tackle any challenge. Hiland’s losses have all come to much larger Ohio powerhouse schools while Fairland had not lost to an Ohio school this season.

But someone was going to go home, and someone was going to move on. That is tournament basketball.

In a true battle of two talented teams, it would be the Lady Hawks who would earn a 50-44 victory to advance to the regional finals to face the Lady Nubians in a return date to Marietta College.

Both coaches shared identical sentiments regarding the lethal regional in which they played.

“We really felt that the winner of this regional could well win the state title,” said Jon Buchanan, Proctorville Fairland head coach, whose senior group has not won fewer than 20 games in any of their four seasons.

With these two teams and Africentric all trying to grind their way through the tough regional, whoever emerges will be battle-tested. Hiland coach Dave Schlabach agreed, knowing full well what a tall task his team faced coming into this game.

“They are a talented team, a lot like us in that they can handle the ball well and have great scoring guards. They have great bigs, and they are very well-coached. At the beginning of the season we felt it would come down to Fairland and Africentric in the regionals, and they did not disappoint. They are a terrific team.”

In the end the victory came for Hiland, but it took a monumental effort, and the Lady Hawks had to survive an early 3-point barrage from the Dragons, which left Hiland reeling.

It all started when Harlie Lyons sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around an Allie Marshall steal and the ensuing layup that gave Fairland a quick 8-0 lead.

The answer for Hiland was to allow All-Ohioan Morgan McMillen to single-handedly give them life. McMillen ripped a pair of treys to pull Hiland to within 8-6. But the Dragons were not done with the long ball by a long shot. Now it was Kelcie Warrock’s turn, and she drilled a pair of triples to give Fairland a 15-7 lead.




The first-quarter lead was eight until Hiland East District Player of the Year Kennedy Schlabach dropped in a long 3-pointer to end the half with Fairland leading 18-13.

It took the Lady Hawks a defensive stop and two trips down the floor to tie it when McMillen scored inside and Kennedy Schlabach drove home another trey. Lyons would add her third three-ball of the game, but Hiland would answer with free throws from Tiffany Weaver and McMillen, and Hiland had its first lead at 22-21.

That didn’t stand long as elusive point guard Emily Chapman got loose for four quick points to put the Dragons back on top 25-22. Hiland tied the score, but Chapman hit a three and drove for a score to give Fairland a 30-25 halftime edge.




Fairland, which had not lost to an Ohio-based school all season, had prepared well for the defending Div. IV state champions.

“They have a great team, and we knew they would make their runs,” Buchanan said of Hiland. “We talked about this as a staff, and we felt this might be the best team we have coached against in my nine years. I don’t see a flaw. They can shoot it. They can play defense. They score. They can handle the ball. They can go inside. They don’t have a flaw.”

Taylor Wilson scored early in the third period to push the lead to seven, but Hiland was able to quell the momentum when Zoe Miller and McMillen delivered in a big way. Miller scored five straight points, two off a steal, and McMillen got hot on a drive and a jumper. Just like that, Hiland led 34-32.

“Zoe came up huge for us tonight,” coach Schlabach said of Miller.

Marshall connected inside, and the two teams battled evenly until the end of the quarter when Kennedy Schlabach launched a long three that just got off her fingertips before the horn sounded. She went sprawling to the floor; she punched her fist in the air as the ball found the bottom of the net for a 42-37 lead.




Then came four minutes of agony for both teams to begin the fourth quarter. The Dragons clamped down on defense, holding Hiland scoreless during that span. However, Fairland could muster just a Wilson bucket in the paint as Hiland clung to a 42-39 lead.

The Lady Hawks found some breathing room when McMillen popped in a short jumper off an inbounds pass from Kennedy Schlabach, but Marshall answered with 2:48 to play to get the Dragons within 44-41.

The Lady Hawks then ran off a ton of clock before McMillen misfired on the front end of a one-and-one, and Fairland had a chance to draw closer or even the score, but they missed. Kennedy Schlabach was fouled with 24 seconds to play. She calmly sank both free throws to put the Lady Hawks up five, and with Fairland down to a must-score opportunity, freshman defensive ace Morgan Yoder came up with a monumental play, reaching around Chapman and poking the ball to Kennedy Schlabach.




“I thought Mo Yoder was incredible defensively again,” coach Schlabach said of the freshman guard.

Kennedy Schlabach quickly found McMillen, who was fouled and canned both attempts to push the lead to seven, and although Chapman canned a long trey with seven seconds to play to draw back to within four, time had run short for the Dragons, and Hiland had held on and had to earn this victory.

While Chapman scored a team-high 16-points, it was a far cry from her previous game when she posted 33.

“Man, we battled,” Buchanan said. “That game was back and forth all night long. There were some things we were concerned about, like stopping their post game, but I thought our kids did a great job of putting ourselves in position to win. I am super proud of our kids. I think anybody who looks at this score and how this game played out will realize that we can play with most anybody in the state.”

Hiland had been tested from the pressure defense to a talented scoring group, but the Lady Hawks had managed to come through each time they needed to in order to preserve the win.

“We got tested tonight,” coach Schlabach said. “We had to answer their early barrage of threes in the first couple of minutes, and we had kids step up. Morgan McMillen played an unbelievable game. Tiff Weaver was in foul trouble all night. Kennedy hit that huge shot at the end of the third on a ball Zoe kept alive and got to her to beat the buzzer, and that was a huge shot.”

Coach Schlabach went on to note that this game, with all of its challenges, pitfalls, hills to overcome and energy spent, was a good challenge one game before facing an Africentric team that many had penciled in as state champions at the beginning of the year. The Lady Nubians (24-3) blew open a tight game at 19-18, went on a 20-0 run and blew out Minford (24-2) 72-45.

“We have to recuperate now because we spent a lot of energy mentally and physically,” coach Schlabach said. “We will enjoy this tonight and tomorrow. Then it’s right back to work because it is going to be a classic war with Africentric.”

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *