Hiland Girls Basketball

Lady Hawks shine in capturing district title with 80-41 win over Hornets

Tiffany Weaver

It seems like it has been an eternity since the Hiland Lady Hawks have played a meaningful game. Dave Schlabach’s crew had not played in a game of any significance since it defeated Malvern February 1 at Malvern, a close game that took place more than one month before the two teams had a rematch in the Div. IV district final at Dover High School Saturday, March 4.

Hiland had won its first three tournament games by a combined score of 270-50, so the pressure of tournament play had certainly not surfaced.

Therefore, more than a few people, including Schlabach himself, wondered exactly how his team would respond in playing a team that Schlabach firmly believes is one of the top 10 teams in the state.

The reply was both swift and brutal, as Hiland used a full-court press, trapped Malvern whenever possible and ran out to a 22-4 lead that eventually led to an 80-41 district championship victory.

“We have seen a lot of the top Div. IV teams in the state, and we think this Malvern team is a top-10 team,” Schlabach said. “I thought we just came out and played our game really well.”

While it was a blowout, this was not your garden-variety opponent. Schlabach has a great deal of respect for the Hornets, and he had his team more than ready to fire on all cylinders from the start.

“We came out and played fast early, and we took care of the ball and got them to turn the ball over a lot,” Schlabach said. “Our kids definitely answered the bell and came out ready to play. I was really pleased with how aggressive and energized we were to start the game the way we did. It set the tone for the whole game.”

The end came all too quickly for a talented but not deep Malvern team who had played Hiland tough the last time they two teams met.

However, in the first quarter, Malvern had seven turnovers and missed a half-dozen shots from point blank, several of them uncontested lay-ups, as it helped Hiland dig its early deficit.

Initially, Malvern had trouble stopping Morgan McMillen, who scored the game’s first six points to spot the Lady Hawks to a 6-0 lead. Angela Troyer’s and-one gave Hiland a quick 9-0 edge before Kelsi Hulit finally got the Hornets on the board with two free throws.

Tara Tucci trimmed the Hiland lead to 9-4 with a nice drive, but the Lady Hawks then ratcheted things up on defense and turned in a 12-0 run to push out to a 22-4 lead. Much of that came on the strength of Hiland’s talented guard duo of Kennedy Schlabach and Jessica Troyer, who were wreaking havoc on defense while sparking the offense. Schlabach made a steal and fed Melissa Hostetler for a lay-up, then Schlabach canned a triple and stole the inbounds pass and fed McMillen for a lay-up. Jessica Troyer then recorded a steal and hit Schlabach for another trey, and Troyer again picked the pocket of a Hornet and fed McMillen for an easy lay-up.

Hulit scored to ebb the tide momentarily, but Tiffany Weaver notched a pair of free throws to give Hiland a 24-6 lead through one quarter.

While Malvern got a Hunter Martin jumper and a three-ball from LeaEllen Leslie, the Lady Hawks were ready to deliver the knockout punch. Sara Keim hit a 3-pointer off a great feed from McMillen, Angela Troyer nailed two free throws, Hostetler scored again inside, McMillen found Jessica Troyer for a lay-in and Angela Troyer made a great pass to Hostetler inside for a 35-11 lead.

Jasmine Goldsworthy scored seven quick points for the Hornets, including a three, but Jessica Troyer dropped in a triple from the corner, McMillen bullied her way to the hole for two, Jessica Troyer followed suit off a steal and the Lady Hawks ran an inbound play for Keim at the end of the half, which she made good on from beyond the arc for a 45-17 lead.

It was game over for the Hornets, as Hiland had laid the foundation for its 12th district title in the past 14 years.

Schlabach said scoring aside, shutting down Hulit was a big factor in their approach to the game. Hulit had a monster game in these two teams’ prior meeting, and was coming off a 33-point performance in Malvern’s semifinal win.

Schlabach said the job Weaver and Hostetler did on the powerful Hulit was incredible. He also said Hiland’s pressure on the point and in its press was crucial.

“We had concerns about them getting into a half-court set and pounding it inside to Hulit,” Schlabach said. “We didn’t want it to be a grind game, we wanted it to be a track meet that was up-and-down tempo. We definitely had it going really fast really early.”

Schlabach added that he has to continue to remind himself that just because it is tournament time, they can’t begin playing close to the vest now. He wants this team to run and go faster and faster, and putting on the breaks now and slowing things down to be more cautious would be detrimental to what they want to accomplish.

“I don’t want to get conservative just because we get farther down the tournament trail,” Schlabach said.

Based on the show the Lady Hawks put on in this district final, that conservative approach couldn’t be further out of mind.

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