· Inter-Valley Conference ·

Round 1 between Hiland and Garaway goes to Lady Hawks, but at what cost?

Another rugged rivalry game sees Lady Hakws top Lady P's 60-35

Hiland and Garaway have had some epic battles over the two schools’ long and historic rivalry. If it weren’t for Garaway, Hiland might have reeled off far more than the current 22 conference title winning streak it is on.

So when the two teams got together at the Reese Center at Hiland High School on Wednesday, Dec. 20, both were looking to finally play a competitive game, something of a novelty because each team had blown away its last three opponents by massive margins.

Hiland came away with a 60-35 victory in a game that both teams’ head coaches thought was a sloppy, ugly game, but for the Lady Hawks, the game came with a steep cost. Already down All-Ohioan Morgan McMillen, who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered during the final game of the summer schedule, Hiland center and blossoming star Tiffany Weaver went down with a high ankle sprain in the second quarter, which may keep her out of action for the next month.

“That hurts us,” Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. “That’s a kid averaging almost a double-double, and she was playing incredibly well, so that is going to be a challenge for us to replace that kind of production.”

As for the game itself, for Hiland it was a turnover-riddled affair that Schlabach said couldn’t end quickly enough.

“Ugly game,” Schlabach said. “Tiff getting hurt threw us out of whack, even rotation and position, but for the first time of seeing pressure, we didn’t handle it very well. It’s a quality win, but we just didn’t feel good at the end. We didn’t get done some of the things we should have gotten done, but give them credit. They were well prepared and took a lot of things away. They are going to be a team to be reckoned with, no doubt. It was just kind of an ugly game all-around, and it seemed like it was going forever. I just wanted it to end.”

For the Lady Pirates, it was a horrendous night of shooting as they misfired frequently, shooting an abysmal 24 percent from the floor including an anemic 1-of-18 from downtown. Head coach Dave Shutt wanted to see how his team stacked up against a very good opponent, and he said they got some answers and know now what they have to work on.

“We had the ball on one side of the floor way too much, and we were stagnant,” Shutt said of his offense. “Partly that was due to their pressure, but we have to get better at that. Our close-outs need to get better. We have to communicate better, rebound better and our ball movement has to be better.”

Hiland bolted to an early 12-2 advantage with Zoe Miller leading the way. Haley Shutt’s steal and ensuing layup and Maddie Steiner’s jumper drew Garaway to within 12-6, which was as close as they would get all game. Then Madison Yoder’s and-one near the end of the first quarter gave Hiland a 15-6 lead.

Hiland All-Ohioan Kennedy Schlabach then started to heat up, connecting on a pair of free throws and canning a 3-pointer that pushed the Hiland lead to 21-6. Hiland’s Krista Troyer and Garaway’s Kallie Regula would trade threes before Zoe Miller would hit two free throws for a 29-13 Hiland edge, but the real back-breaker came as time expired and Schlabach stepped back and hammered home a deep three-ball to give Hiland a 35-15 half-time advantage.

“We held Kennedy in check there for awhile. Then we give her two easy looks, and they feed off of a couple of those,” Shutt said.

Treys from Krista Troyer and Bryn Mullet kept advancing Hiland’s lead in the third quarter, and when Sarah Keim split two free throws with 0.1 seconds left in the third period, Hiland held a commanding 48-23 edge. The Lady Hawks kept the score right there throughout the fourth period, despite the fine effort of Lady Pirate Zoe Johnson, and Hiland ended up winning by 25.

Shutt said his team normally doesn’t shoot that bad, and had they had a normal night, had they made five or six of those 3-point attempts, who knows what the game might have looked like. While the shooting was awful, the Lady P’s defense did cause problems for Hiland all over the floor, but as the Lady Hawks’ turnovers mounted, Shutt lamented that the end result wasn’t good enough.

“That’s what we have been doing most of the year,” Shutt said about his team’s frenetic defense that caused so many turnovers. “But the flip side of that is that we didn’t capitalize on them like we should have. We did some good things, but most importantly this is a great gauge to help us get better. Twenty games against them would make us both better.”

For the game, Schlabach led all scorers with 14 points, hitting four 3-pointers, while Zoe Miller added 10 points and six rebounds. Mullet scored nine points and added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Kelsey Swihart stepped in for Weaver and excelled, scoring six points, grabbing eight rebounds and adding a pair of blocked shots. Morgan Yoder scored five points and hit the triple feature, collecting three rebounds, assists and steals.

Garaway was paced by Johnson’s 10 points, six rebounds and three steals while Shutt added six points and three steals. Sydney Mullet scored six points, and Steiner collected four steals to go with her four points. Regula would net six points to go with five boards.

The win moved Hiland’s record to 5-1 while Garaway dropped its first contest of the year, falling to 5-1.

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Hiland’s Freshman Fab Four gets the job done

Thanks to the injuries, plus the fact that this current crop of Hiland freshmen is pretty doggone good, coach Schlabach has given his youngsters plenty of minutes. The Lady Hawks’ freshmen quartet of Morgan Yoder, Brynn Mullet, Kelsey Swihart and Zoe Miller logged 80 total minutes in the contest, and the numbers would say that they held up well under the pressure. All told the freshmen scored half of Hiland’s 60 points and more than half of its 47 rebounds (24) while collecting six of the team’s 11 steals. They also played a huge role in Hiland’s pressuring half-court defense.

“I thought our freshman played fine,” Schlabach said of the four youngsters. “They all did some really good things. We’re still a work in process, but they’ve shown some nice ability so far.”

With Weaver going down, Schlabach will now start three of the freshman moving forward as they continue their trial-by-fire season.

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