Hiland Boys Basketball

Patriots emerged a winner over Hawks, but it wasn’t easy

Kobe Troyer and the hawks fought for 32 minutes in a state loss

The Hiland Hawks understood the challenge they faced in staring down a magnificent Cornerstone Christian team in the Div. IV state semifinal contest at Value City Arena in Columbus on Thursday, March 22.

With the Div. IV Player of the Year in Michael Bothwell and All-Ohioans Kendall Saunders and Ricky Adams as well as a supporting cast of tough, athletic players, the Patriots were a big favorite to knock off the Hawks, who after starting the year 5-5 went on a 17-game winning streak to surprise many of their own fans to reach state.

However, this Hawks team has shown itself to be resilient all year, and in its toughest challenges, Mark Schlabach’s crew seemed to rise to every challenge with a hard-hat effort that defined this team.

While the Patriots would eventually deal the Hawks a 51-41 defeat in a game that saw CCHS go on a 14-0 run in the first quarter that proved to be the difference, it was another tremendous effort for the Hawks, who went down swinging.

The game featured plenty of twists and turns, but every time Hiland challenged, Cornerstone had an answer. That left the Hawks having to settle for the school’s 10th state appearance with three state titles and one runner-up effort. It also marked the first game back to state since the Hawks won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.

This contest brought out the best in both teams, both of which showed a huge amount of respect for one another, both of whom knew they had been in a dogfight when the final horn sounded.

Here are some keys and thoughts on the contest:

 

Higher expectations

Two years ago Cornerstone shocked everyone by winning an unexpected state title. Last year it suffered a shocking defeat in districts that definitely lit a fire for them to return to state this year.

“Two years ago we didn’t have any expectations, and we were surprised we won,” Cornerstone head coach Dan Selle said. “Last year we had those expectations and got tripped up by a great JFK team in the district finals. We knew what our mission was, but it’s not easy to get back here.”

Selle said all season long this team has been focused on winning a state title. “This game might not have been pretty, but it is one step forward toward that goal,” Selle said.

 

Sizing up Scott

Schlabach praised senior guard Scott Troyer for having to assume a monster role in the Hiland attack. He said they asked him to run the show, score, handle pressure and then guard Michael Bothwell after defensive wizard Andy Miller got into foul trouble.

“That was a tough task on Scott, but he played his heart out, and they played a lot of great individual defense on him,” Schlabach said.

“It was a good feeling to make it to state this year, but that doesn’t make it feel any better to lose here at state,” Scott Troyer said. “I am happy we got the opportunity to play here.”

Maybe nothing summed up the Second-Team All-Ohioan’s effort more than the third period when he was forced to guard Div. IV’s Player of the Year in Bothwell. After scorching the Hawks for 15 points in the first half, Bothwell managed to get off just one shot in the third period, and Scott Troyer’s defensive effort was a huge part of that.

 

Here a foul, there a foul, everywhere a foul foul

All season long the Hawks have excelled when they have been able to turn their aggressive guards loose on opponents. In this game the officials came out calling it tight both ways, but that game plan didn’t exactly help Hiland. In fact it hurt them a lot. Dazzling defender Andy Miller got into foul trouble, and one by one Hiland’s defenders began to rack up fouls. By the end none of them had fouled out, but Hochstetler, Kobe Troyer, Kandel and Miller all had accumulated four fouls, and Scott Troyer had three. That made it tough for them to maintain the aggressive defense that drove them all year.

For CCHS, they too had to deal with their fair share of foul issues with Kendall Saunders, Jeremy Owens and Titus Wheeler all ending with four fouls.

“I wasn’t sure how that would affect us,” Selle said of the foul troubles and the officiating calling a lot of touch fouls. He said the way they shot free throws, where they made just 17-of-32 for 53 percent, didn’t exactly help them to get to the line.

He looked at the situation diplomatically in assessing what kind of an impact it made.

“It probably didn’t benefit us, but we are going to play the game however the officials call it, and they called it evenly on both sides.”

 

Bothering Bothwell

Michael Bothwell is one tough customer. He is athletic, smart and calm in his play, and he is a humble guy too. That would normally endear him to Hiland faithful, but not when the task is to stop him. Hiland struggled with the OHSAA Div. IV Player of the Year all game long. The senior, bound for Firman University, averages 24.6 points and is as good as advertised.

When the Patriots needed a score, he was there to provide it, his buzzer-beater three-ball at the end of the third an especially huge dagger to Hiland’s chances.

“We knew he was going to make some ridiculous shots,” Schlabach said of Bothwell. “If you play great defense and he makes it, you tip your cap and move on to the next play. Our guys did a good job of that, but he made tough shots.”

“I remember playing Berlin Hiland our freshman year in the holiday tournament, and I knew they played really well on defense,” Bothwell said. “They have great help and play the gaps and everything well. That was a challenge. Their guards made me uncomfortable at times by packing it in, so we had to make adjustments and value every possession.”

 

Lots of losses

Hiland came into the state semifinal with five losses while Cornerstone had seven on its ledger. That is a lot of losses for state tournament teams, but both teams made a point of scheduling really difficult schedules, and that paid off.

“Cornerstone is phenomenal defensively, and they have been in a lot of tough games this year, and I think they understood when they needed to pick up their defensive intensity,” Schlabach said. “But we normally do to other teams what they did to us. They took us out of a lot of what we wanted to do offensively.”

Selle said their schedule definitely prepared them for the rigors of chasing a second title in three years. CCHS played some of the state’s biggest and best programs this year, like Lakewood St. Edwards and Solon, both of whom dealt the Patriots 30-point losses. But in doing so, it made the trek through tournament much easier.

“Hiland is a Div. IV team, but they are a fantastic team,” Selle said. “Berlin Hiland is a fantastic team, and they showed that today. Their guards are composed, and they have grown a lot this year, and that showed today.”

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