Two games into the regular season of high school basketball has revealed some very interesting facts about the Hiland Lady Hawks.
The defending Div. IV champs have plenty of question marks pertaining to the new campaign.
The loss of four key figures from last year, including Div. IV Player of the Year Angela Troyer, hit them hard. Then they lost All-Ohio senior Morgan McMillen to a knee injury. Tack on the fact that no less than five freshmen are being relied upon to provide meaningful minutes on the varsity level, and the floodgates are open for the questions to come through like a raging torrent.
Two games in, Hiland head coach Dave Schlabach is quite pleased and somewhat surprised with what has transpired.
Hiland took on Div. I powerhouse Kettering Fairmont in its opening game, and despite struggling mightily from the field, the Lady Hawks hung in there, eventually falling 44-37 after the ugly night of shooting.
Three nights later Hiland traveled to Canton to face another mighty challenge in perennial power North Canton Hoover. This time Hiland found its shooting touch and blew open a close game that was ignited by a pair of Sarah Keim 3-pointers, and the Lady Hawks stormed to a stunning 63-46 victory.
“That was an interesting game,” Schlabach said of the win over North Canton Hoover. “We’re tied with four minutes to go in the half, and then Kennedy [Schlabach] has to sit in foul trouble. Sarah hits two huge shots, and our freshmen really stepped up.”
Coach Schlabach said that at one point in the second quarter, Hiland had four freshmen on the floor, and they were able to hold their own.
The second half belonged to Hiland, especially Tiffany Weaver, the Lady Hawks’ talented junior center who has faced three of the better bigs in the state of Ohio in two games. Weaver held Hoover star center Annie Roshak, who scored 30 points one game earlier, to four second-half points.
With two fantastic efforts, coach Schlabach is excited about the early results. He said just playing great competition isn’t good enough. They needed to compete with these teams to prove they belong. They certainly have done that.
“We’ve found a little bit of what we are made of through two games, and I feel good about what our kids have done so far,” coach Schlabach said. “Even in that first game, we played very well. We just shot poorly. We faced a ton of talented size, and we have shown we can play big.”
Coach Schlabach said the quartet of Weaver, sophomore Kendra Shetler, and freshmen Zoe Miller and Kelsey Swihart give Hiland a presence in the paint that looks promising.
“That size is a luxury,” he said. “And our defense has been great.”
The Lady Hawks also have done a good job of penetrating, and in doing so, they have gotten both of their opponents in foul trouble, resulting in a lot of free throws. Against Hoover, Hiland made 18-of-25 charity tosses with Kennedy Schlabach going 7-of-7 and Weaver making 4-of-4.
After a horrendous opening night from the floor that saw her make a paltry 3-of-17, Kennedy Schlabach responded with a strong 5-of-10 shooting night as she totaled a game-high 19 points.
Without McMillen, Kennedy Schlabach will be the focal point of every team Hiland faces, and her head coach said she will have to continue to work hard at creating her own shots.
“She made a really nice adjustment from game one to game two,” coach Schlabach said of his daughter. “She’s going to have to figure out how to hit difficult shots because teams are going to focus on her and make other kids beat them.”
With a slate of half of its schedule against top-quality opponents, coach Schlabach said they are going to have to toughen up in a hurry. He said he loves the schedule and the many different challenges it presents.
“We are going to have to get tougher, but we have done better in the first two games than I could have envisioned,” coach Schlabach said. “These kids have already set the standard higher than I figured they would, and they look determined to compete hard, no matter who we are going up against.”
While he knows he will get a great effort, coach Schlabach said the key to this crew might be improving its outside scoring. The head coach said this is not one of the better shooting teams he has had, so establishing an inside presence is important. However, he said eventually they will have to find some an answer from downtown to free up the inside game.
For now he will enjoy the two performances that have set the tone for the season in a way that went beyond what he expected.