In the movie “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid,” the two infamous highwaymen are on the lam and being chased by a posse throughout the movie. It is a posse that simply won’t seem to go away, forcing the two men to utter the phrase “Who are those guys?” in an exasperated tone on numerous occasions.
That phrase is what the Hiland Lady Hawks may have been saying when they faced the Perry Panthers in a fantastic match-up Thursday, January 26 at Perry High School.
Hiland raced out to an eight-point lead early, and every time they felt like they were building a lead, there were the Panthers, right behind them, chasing them down, never going away.
“We couldn’t seem to put them away,” said Hiland coach Dave Schlabach. “Every time I thought we might make a run and put the game away, they came right back to make a game of it.”
Schlabach had been anticipating this contest all year, because he felt that Perry senior superstar Kylie Pireu, who is headed to Ashland University, and her team would provide a huge challenge for his Lady Hawks.
He wasn’t wrong.
Despite toting a 7-9 record into the game, Perry’s record is deceiving. It plays is a very tough Federal League, and it has also played the past seven games without star point guard and Walsh University-bound Kimmie Borck.
Hiland got out to a quick 12-4 lead on the strength of a pair of 3-pointers from Kennedy Schlabach, but Perry rallied late in the first quarter to trim that deficit to 14-12.
Angela Troyer and Tiffany Weaver helped build that lead to eight in the second quarter, but each time Hiland had opportunities to extend the lead past the double digit mark, Perry seemed to dig deep to find an answer.
Mid-way through the third quarter Schlabach drained her fourth trey of the game, giving Hilanda 38-30 lead. Later in the quarter, Troyer made two free throws to push Hiland’s lead to 44-33, but a five-point Perry run to end the quarter got it to within 44-38 heading to the fourth.
“Who are these guys?” The posse was still chasing.
Leading by five in the middle of the fourth, Troyer, who always seems to step up at big moments, scored on a put-back to give the Lady Hawks a 54-45 lead. While Perry kept hanging around and Hiland couldn’t put them away, the Panthers never really threatened to steal the lead away from Hiland.
Troyer and Schlabach put the game away late on an and-one and two free throws, respectively, and Div. IV’s number ranked one team snuck out of Perry with a win.
Pireu is the best player we have seen all year, and I thought Tiff (Weaver) did a great job of battling against her all night,” Coach Schlabach said.
Things to glean from an important game
Hiland had plenty of positives come from this game, in addition to defeating a very good opponent.
• McMillen doesn’t have to score – Hiland’s leading scorer Morgan McMillen went an ice-cold 1-of-10 from the floor, and scored four points, but the fact that a kid averaging 18-plus points per game can only score four and you can beat a team the caliber of Perry is a great sign for Hiland.
“We got a great team effort, and you don’t ever expect Morgan to score four points,” Schlabach said.
• Schlabach is back – Kennedy Schlabach had been struggling a bit from the floor, and her head coach and father Dave Schlabach said she has been working relentlessly to get back on track. After draining 5-of-8 triples from downtown for a team-high 19 points, it is safe to say that Schlabach is feeling much better about her shot.
“She has corrected a few things and regained her confidence,” Coach Schlabach said. “This was huge for her.”
• Keim is undaunted – Considering she is coming off the bench behind five very capable scorers, junior guard Sara Keim is not afraid to pull the trigger in big situations. Twice on this night, Keim stepped into a 3-pointer and buried them, and they were crucial shots because Hiland was continually fending off the charging Panthers.
• We’ve lost that hateful feeling – The last time Hiland played on the Perry floor, they were bemoaning a regional loss to Lake Ridge Academy that saw them deliver an almost unbelievable stat line of 1-of-25 from 3-point land. Getting a chance to erase those memories was well worth it, and Hiland made good on a much healthier 8-of-23 3-point attempts.
“It took us 10 seconds to make a three this year instead of 31 minutes,” Coach Schlabach said with a laugh. “It was important for us to move past that last game, and this helped us do that. I’m glad that is now out of our system.”
• Weaver is here to stay – Sophomore Tiffany Weaver has come on strong the past 10 games. Her 12-point, six-rebound effort against an All-Ohio caliber talent like Pireu is another step in her evolution as a premier talent. She is already well on her way to setting Hiland’s single-season block record.
“She has just gotten so much better, and stronger and more confident in her game on both sides of the floor,” Schlabach said of Weaver.
• This team is remarkable when it comes to free – Hiland is shooting a robust 80 percent from the charity stripe, a number that is rarely achieved by any team, on any level. As an example, there are only five NBA teams over 80 percent, the Boston Celtics the highest at 81.8 percent. The Cleveland Cavaliers make 75 percent of their free throws. The Miami Heat is making just 67.5 percent. The best free throws percentage for a season for any Lady Hawks team was set in the 1997-98 season at 72.7 percent. The top percentage for the Hiland boys was in its state championship season of 1991-92, just 74.7 percent.
“Good shooters make free throws,” Schlabach said. “I think a lot of it is repetition, and we put a lot of pressure on them in practice to make them. We record all of our free throws in practice, and they make a competition out of it, and you try to put them in as many pressure situations as possible when you’re at practice.”