Few people expected the Saturday, Jan. 30 matinee at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center at Hiland High School to be a nip-and-tuck battle.
The mighty Hiland Lady Hawks came into the game boasting a huge edge over Strasburg, and quickly got up on the scoreboard and ran away with the game.
However, that doesn’t mean this contest wasn’t important to the Lady Hawks, who cruised to a 79-19 win.
First and foremost, it was senior night, a time that allows fans to thank the seniors for their hard work and dedication to the program.
But in what was the most stirring moment of the game, senior Lish Miller started the game. Miller has been forced to the sideline following a season-long illness finally wore her down to the point where she could barely compete without passing out. She was expected to be an integral part of coach Dave Schlabach’s rotation this season, but that came to an end, until senior night
The Lady Hawks made it a point to run a play for Miller off the opening tip. It went afoul, but they improvised, found Miller beyond the arc, and the senior paid dividends, draining a trey to ignite her club and the crowd.
“How about that. That was pretty special,” said Schlabach after the game. We couldn’t have written that script any better. Our play didn’t work out, but our kids were determined to find her.”
Schlabach almost immediately pulled Miller out of the game, a broad grin gracing her face.
“We made a huge effort to get not just Lish but everybody involved,” said Schlabach. “We shared the ball so unselfishly today, and we have been talking about that a lot.”
The game also served as a rest for some of Hiland’s key players who have gotten worn down by a hectic 11-day, five game stretch against five excellent foes.
“It’s always fun to get everyone in for significant minutes,” said Schlabach, who said his end of the bench kids work hard all week, and toil to help the team any way possible. He noted it is nice to be able to reward them with varsity playing time.
Megan Beechy, a senior who is usually asked to go into games and stick her nose on the ball and not let go, was able to enjoy her career-best six-point effort.
The game also served as a time for Schlabach and his staff to put together the pieces of the puzzle that is a team coming off of some significant injuries.
Morgan McMillen continued to strengthen her foot, logging another 12 minutes, scoring nine points and grabbing five boards. Tiffany Yoder, a six-foot freshman who was dealing with knee issues much of the year, is finally back, playing in her second game. She logged nine minutes as she tested her knee. Brittany Miller had been ill, missing several games, before coming back last game, so the senior star guard has had to feel her way back into playing shape.
Then there is the task of the coaching staff to configure this team, to develop the rotation they feel can bring them a fifth state title.
“We feel like we can finally legitimize our full rotation the next week before heading into tournament, and that is huge,’ said Schlabach. “This was a good game for us to gain ground in all of those aspects.”
Hiland roared to a 24-3 lead through one quarter, led by Kennedy Schlabach, who scored eight points early then devoted herself to aiding others, doling out a whopping nine assists. A 17-4 second quarter, led by Angela Troyer and Miller, gave the Lady Hawks a safe 41-7 lead at intermission. Hiland went on to outscore Strasburg 21-6 in the third, with Beechy and Miller doing much of the damage, before Hiland’s deep bench played most of the fourth, led by Weaver, Mya Blochlinger and Isabelle Fowler. By the time Abby Miller put on the exclamation point, Hiland had its 60-point win and had experienced real gains in doing so that had nothing to do with the final score.