Hiland Boys Basketball

Nightmare first quarter sends Hawks to 65-47 defeat to Lake Catholic

Kobe Troyer and the Hawks fall at WQKT Classic

Hiland Hawks boys head basketball coach Mark Schlabach said going into the Hawks’ WQKT Steve Smith Holiday Hoops Classic confrontation with Mentor Lake Catholic, the two teams were very similar, except for one mitigating factor.

Schlabach, a graduate of Steve Moore’s incredible College of Wooster basketball program, said Lake Catholic sophomores Luke Eller and Luke Frazier were better than any duo his team had faced, and they could present some big problems for the Hawks because of their size and incredible skill set.

Say this for Schlabach, he can certainly judge talent.

Eller and Frazier were dominant in the 65-47 Mentor Lake Catholic victory that took place as part of a WQKT six-game slate on Saturday, Dec. 23 at the College of Wooster, but while the score may have appeared lopsided, that margin basically came in the game’s first quarter when Hiland fell behind 22-6. From that point on, the Hawks’ defense dug deep, cutting a 17-point deficit to 11 a couple of times, but the Hawks could get no closer as they fell to 4-3, and Mentor improved to a perfect 6-0 on the year.

The horror story that was the first half saw the Cougars bolt to an 11-0 lead before the Hawks could even catch their breath. In that stretch Frazier scored five and Jake LeJeune added four. It wasn’t until the 5:05 mark that the Hawks finally broke through on an Andy Miller drive. Hiland got a stop, and Kobe Miller scored, trimming the deficit to 11-4, but the Cougars quickly built their cushion as Frazier kept scoring and Eller started to heat up.

Eller scored three points to start the second period and push the Lake Catholic lead to 25-6. Hiland would get it back to within 14 a couple of times on scores from Scott Troyer and Damien Kandel, but each time Eller answered, and when Frazier hit a 3-pointer with 41 seconds to play, the lead was back to 19 at 34-15. Andy Miller’s score gave the Hawks a slight lift at the half, but Hiland still trailed 34-17.

The Hawks may have been down, but there was no quit in a group that came out fighting in the second half, getting after it defensively in typical coach Schlabach style. A three-ball from Scott Troyer and two free throws from Kobe Troyer trimmed the deficit to 11 points at 34-23. Eller kept forcing the lead back up to 15, but Hiland kept clawing and eventually got it back to 11 points at 38-27 on Miller’s two free throws. Late in the third period, Kendall Hochstetler nailed a 3-pointer to get Hiland within 42-30, but a layup from Christian DeMitro and Frazier’s back-breaking 3-pointer to end the quarter gave Lake Catholic a comfortable 47-30 lead.

Eller quickly helped the Cougars build their biggest lead at 54-32 before Kober Troyer scored five points on a pair of free throws and a triple, but Hiland had exerted a ton of energy trying to rebound from the early 16-point deficit and could never solve Lake Catholic’s super-sophomores. Hunter Sommers and Kyle Miller scored late buckets to at least keep Hiland within 20 points, but this game was essentially won in the first eight minutes of play as the usually staunch Hawks defense allowed Lake Catholic to lay a mammoth 22 points down in the first eight minutes.

The WQKT contest was one of those games that a coach will see as a valuable learning tool for his team, and playing that kind of impressive competition is only going to make a team better, but the way the game played out always makes it tough to realize those kinds of things at the spur of the moment.

The big 6-foot, 5-inch Eller ended the night with 21 points and 14 rebounds, both game highs, while Frazier cashed in with 17 points and six rebounds to go with his four steals. Sean Fitzgerald added nine points, and LeJeune added six for the Cougars, who outrebounded Hiland 28-18 while shooting a crisp 56 percent from the floor.

For as bad as the final score might seem, Hiland can take solace in the final three quarters, where it played Mentor Lake Catholic close at just a 33-31 deficit.

Leading the way in the scoring column was Kobe Troyer, who dropped in 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Scott Troyer added nine points, Andy Miller pitched in with eight and Johnny Sisson tacked on five. Hochstetler, Kobe Troyer and Kandel each snagged four rebounds for Hiland.

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