The last time Hiland and Garaway got together for a girls basketball game earlier this season, Hiland took advantage of 19 Garaway turnovers, held a slim lead late and made a bunch of free throws down the stretch to pull away.
Garaway head coach Jim Monigold knew that if his Lady Pirates wanted to turn that trend around, they would have to cut back on the number of turnovers that put them in a hole.
Five minutes into the game, Hiland had harassed Garaway into five quick turnovers that had paved the way for a 14-2 Lady Hawks lead. While Garaway would battle back to eventually even the score, the Lady P’s had to expend a ton of energy to crawl out of the hole they had created. In the end, Garaway would have 18 turnovers, Hiland would hold a slim lead late, and Kennedy Schlabach made a bunch of free throws down the stretch to pull away to a 56-44 victory that sewed up the Lady Hawks 21st straight Inter-Valley Conference title.
“That was a heck of an effort we gave to get back into the game, but those early turnovers put us in such a huge hole,” said Monigold. “You take that window away, and it’s our ball game. We would have been out front, as opposed to trying to fight back so hard.”
But you can’t change the past, and Hiland made plenty of plays after Katya Misko scored for Garaway to start the game.
Angela Troyer tied the game with a jumper, who then stole an entry pass. Hiland turned it right back over, but Melissa Hostetler made a steal for Hiland. A Morgan McMillen three-point play would set the stage for a 14-0 Hiland run that gave the Lady Hawks a 14-2 edge. It was the beginning of a horrible stretch for Garaway, and exactly what Hiland needed, especially with what had happened right before Hiland was set to go out on the floor to warm up.
Mere moments before taking the floor, senior guard Brittany Miller became dizzy and could not go out and play. She would miss the entire game, something that could have been a tough break for Hiland to overcome.
“Talk about having a monkey wrench thrown into the plans,” said Hiland coach Dave Schlabach. “We are ready to go out, and all of a sudden Brit, who had played so well Wednesday, lays down and can’t go. I give our kids a lot of credit. Our leader and best player is laying on the floor, unable to go. The one kid we have who we are asking to guard Izzy Meese is out. We could have come out and really struggled. It showed a lot of mental toughness for our kids, and to come out and get out to that huge lead right off the bat was huge.”
But as quickly as Hiland had built a lead, The Lady Pirates took it away.
Sydney Mullet finally hit a 3-pointer late in the quarter, and cut Hiland’s lead after one quarter to 14-5.
Kendra Miller knocked down a triple to start the second quarter,. Courtney Werker hit a pair of free throws, Misko stuck back a rebound and when Mullet drive down the paint and laid one in, Garaway had almost magically tied the score in a hurry.
Hiland’s Kennedy Schlabach hit two free throws, McMillen scored inside and Troyer dropped in a trey (video), and just like that, Hiland had recovered, building its lead to 21-14.
This Angie Troyer trey give Hiland a 21-14 lead on second pic.twitter.com/aR7OP7D7Va
— HolmesCountyTicket (@hcticket) February 7, 2016
An Izzy Meese spinner in the lane would draw Garaway to within 24-18 at the half.
Hiland would maintain that lead into the third quarter, when Meese would drill a three-ball (video) to trim the Hiland lead to 30-27. Troyer scored inside for Hiland, and Hailey Shutt answered with a drive. A Hiland scored was followed by a Werker three, and Garaway was back in business. A pair of stops and three cracks at threes to take the lead faikled to hitthe mark for Garaway with less than two minutes in the half. Troyer then hit a pair of free throws, Sara Keim scored on a huge put-back and Troyer hit two more free throws to give the Lady Hawks a 40-34 lead heading to the fourth.
Meese three after a Werker steal makes it 39-27 Hilsnd pic.twitter.com/LdXdhBwc6V
— HolmesCountyTicket (@hcticket) February 7, 2016
“We had a couple of great looks to take the lead there but couldn’t get it to fall,” said Monigold. “I told the girls during a time-out, we did a great job of fighting back to within tow, now we need to get that lead and change the momentum. You never know what can happen once you take the lead. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get one to fall there.”
Hiland kept the lead at six for much of the fourth quarter, and Garaway trailed 50-44 when Meese hit tow free throws, but Hiland was able to sustain.
The freshman Weaver actually came up with big buckets and rebounds all night long, scoring eight points, grabbing seven rebounds and playing like anything but a freshman, and scored lateto put Garaway down eight.
“She was huge for us,” said Schlabach. “She gives us a legitimate scoring presence inside that we haven’t had for a long time. She played awesome.”
Then came the long and impressive trail of free throws for Hiland that ended any hope for Garaway.
Schlabach, who shoots better free throw percentage than 98 percent of the players in the NBA at 90-plus percent, showed exactly why her coach wants the ball in her hands late. After Jessica Troyer hit both ends of a one-and-one, Schlabach hit nothing but net on six straight free throws to put the game on ice.
“We’ve got kids that want the ball in that situation, and that is a good thing,” said Coach Schlabach.
“It’s late, and you know Kennedy is going to hang on to the ball all she can, “said Monigold. “You want to foul anyone else, but they know that and she is handling the ball. Time is running down and you have to foul her and hope she misses.”
She didn’t, and Hiland celebrated another perfect 16- IVC league record, something that has become quite common over the years.
“I thought they were very well prepared, and we struggled to score at times,” said Schlabach. “It was a grind. Fortunately, we were able to fight through their pressure and maintain that lead. It was a good team win.”
“We want to win this game very badly, and we do put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do that,” said Monigold. “But in the end, this game is something we need to experience to get better. It’s a great challenge, and this one with Ridgewood the game before is exactly what we need going into the tournament.”
Troyer (video) and Schlabach led Hiland with 18 and 15 points, respectively, while McMillen added nine and Weaver chipped in with eight. Garaway was paced by Meese’s 14, while Miller continued her sensational senior year with a nine-point, 11-rebound effort. Werker also was a workhorse, scoring eight points and collecting nine rebounds, while Mullet added five points and Misko scored four.
Then there were those wicked turnovers, where Garaway committed 18 miscues to just nine for Hiland.
It was a game that was almost a carbon copy of the first contest this season, and it left Garaway at 19-3 on the season, 14-2 in the IVC, while Hiland improved to 20-2, 16-0.
The IVC crown-control never gets old for Lady Hawks
For the past 21 seasons, Dave Schlabach’s Hiland Lady Hawks have owned at least a share of the Inter-Valley Conference crown. Many of those titles included a shiny 16-0 record, as was the case this season after Hiland disposed of Garaway 56-44 on the final night of regulation play.
While some might think that at this point that title may not mean a lot, Schlabach said the streak is important because it marks the continuing success of a Hiland program that now owns the most state tournament appearances of any girls’ team in the state, regardless of division. That includes four state championships and five runner-up titles.
“I told our kids, I think this means a lot to our alumni,” said Schlabach. “Once they leave here, they want that tradition to continue, and no team wants to be the one to let that streak come to an end. We get a lot of messages from former player, and we finished this one off in style tonight.”
The 2015-2016 Lady Hawks have added to that legacy, and the graduating seniors will now become the alumni who encourage next year’s group to continue what began under Schlabach more than two decades ago.”