Hiland Girls Basketball

Lady Hawks simply wear down Cornerstone and roll to 57-36 regional win

Angela Troyer and Melissa Hostetler are happy to be moving on after regional win

As the players from Cornerstone Christian came out of the locker room following the half-time break of its Div. IV regional girls basketball contest with the Hiland Lady Hawks, the team moved to the bench slowly, with little emotion and next to no energy.

What had started as a promising game had quickly slipped into the danger zone during a frantic final two minutes that saw the Lady Hawks go on a 12-0 run that happened in an instant.

An 18-17 Cornerstone lead had turned into a 29-18 disadvantage, and what was more, the Cornerstone players looked spent, both emotionally and physically.

The second half proved that to be correct, and Hiland rolled to a 57-36 win to advance to the regional final versus Jackson-Milton.

“That was the difference,” said Cornerstone interim coach Frank Soria, who was pressed into duty two weeks earlier when Patriots’ coach Lisa Stopp had emergency open heart surgery (she is doing well). “Our kids came out hard and we played hard, but their depth was a major difference. We really fought hard, but they are just such a great team.”

The game began on an ominous note for the Lady Hawks, who clanked their first four attempts, three of them wide-open looks from beyond the arc. That was a concern because the last time Hiland played a regional game at Perry High School they hit just 1-of-24 from beyond the arc in a stunning loss.

“I’m sure our fans were thinking about that,” Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said with a laugh, referring to that debacle and the ugly shooting start on this night.

But after the early struggles, Hiland got on track when both Kennedy Schlabach and Angela Troyer hit threes to push the Lady Hawks ahead 6-5. Troyer would connect again later in the quarter, but Cornerstone would lead 13-9 after the sluggish start.

Sophomore Center Tiffany Weaver then stepped up big, scoring six straight points to keep Hiland close, but the game appeared as though it could go either way.

“I felt we could have been down 10 in the first quarter,” Schlabach said. “I thought Angie (Troyer) played an incredible game defensively during that stretch that was key.”

Then came the final two-minute feeding frenzy for Hiland that put Cornerstone in a bad place.

It began with Troyer scoring on two free throws, and that was followed by Morgan McMillen’s 3-pointer from way, way deep.
Jessica Troyer then scored inside and Angela Troyer drove for two. After getting a stop on defense, the Lady Hawks ran a play for Schlabach, and she found herself wide open and buried a triple to give Hiland a 29-17 half-time edge.

“We talk about looking for that one run every game against quality opponents, and it happened to be in that 14th minute,” Schlabach said. “We needed that adversity. It was loud, and we had trouble communicating. I give our kids credit. Everyone continued to contribute. We are a better team that we were a year ago.”

Cornerstone’s demeanor coming out of the break was set aside early in the third quarter when Hiland made several horrendous passes that allowed their opponent to get within 29-22, but the tired legs and lack of energy was about to crush Cornerstone’s chances, and the Lady Hawks were happy to oblige.

Schlabach said he felt like his team knew it could wear the Patriots down, and didn’t do a lot of foolish things to get in the way of that plan.

McMillen hit a jumper in the lane, Weaver scored off a nice pass from McMillen and after two missed free throws by the Patriots, Schlabach drained a 3-pointer after Hiland hauled in t here offensive rebounds and took four shots. That moment seemed to define the entire second half.

Cornerstone got back to within nine point late in the quarter on a 3-pointer from Sharyn Tom, but Hiland answered quickly with two Angela Troyer free throws and a perfectly executed lob pass to Weaver to end the quarter with Hiland up 42-31.

What happened in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter left no doubt as to the outcome.

After Madison Cloonan scored inside to start the quarter, Angela Troyer hit two more free throws. Hiland created a turnover and Jessica Troyer made two sensational hustle plays to set up McMillen’s score inside. McMillen then hit two free throws, Angela Troyer connected on a jumper, McMillen scored on a great feed from Schlabach and Schlabach then knocked down a trey from the left corner to make it 55-31.

It was done. The Lady Hawks had simply ground Cornerstone’s talented but not very deep team into submission.

Schlabach was quite pleased with his team’s half-court defense. Normally Hiland uses its aggressiveness and speed to create turnovers in the back-court, but the Patriots guards handle the ball so well Hiland could not create turnovers in the full-court game.

They did do it in the half-court game, where Angela Troyer and Schlabach got their hands on a lot of loose balls.

At this level, everybody has good guards, and we had to lock down half-court,” Schlabach said.

Hiland’s relentless half-court defense created 25 Patriots turnovers, and Angela Troyer recorded six steals. Meanwhile, after a rough start that saw Schlabach dole out three ugly turnovers, the junior point guard settled in and didn’t commit another one while doling out eight assists. She added a dozen points and three steals in what was a sensational game.

“I don’t even think about bringing the ball up the floor, she just does it all,” Coach Schlabach said of his daughter. “She calms us down. She also had an assignment, she played really good defense on the (Grace) Marino kid, because she is tough. Sometimes when you have a great point guard you forget how really good they are, and she did a super job of taking care of the basketball for us.”

Hiland got great scoring from four players. In addition to Schlabach’s 12, Angela Troyer netted a game-high 16 while McMillen added 13 and Weaver scored 12. Michaela Cloonan scored 10 while Madison Cloonan and Marino both ended the night with six. Hiland also won the rebounding battle 32-18, and consistently kept balls alive for second-chance points, of which they amassed 30 of the total of 57. Hiland’s Jessica Troyer, one of the smallest kids on the floor, led everyone off the glass with nine boards.

“I think some of our kids have thought about last year’s game probably every day of the 365 days,” coach Schlabach said. “It has motivated our kids, and I feel that we are in a better place and can handle adversity better this year.”

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