For one night, Will Schlabach stepped into a retro Hiland uniform and transported Hawks fans back to the days of Junior Raber, Nevin Mishler and the rest of the Berlin Bombers. In a sense Schlabach created a “Flashback Friday” moment.
However, it is quite possible that nary one of the former great sharpshooters from downtown ever did what Schlabach did in Hiland’s impressive 73-43 victory over Indian Valley in Gnadenhutten on Friday, Feb. 8.
Schlabach came off of Hiland’s bench and knocked down his first seven 3-point attempts in the first half: yes, off the bench, and yes, in the first half. In all Schlabach canned 8-of-9 long-balls on the night to total up his game-high 24 points.
Before Schlabach came in, the Hawks were struggling with a physical, big Braves team. Indian Valley had taken a 12-8 lead and had the home crowd fired up in search of an upset of the Inter-Valley South-leading and undefeated Hawks.
Enter Schlabach, who started chucking up perfectly aimed treys at an alarming clip. His acumen resulted in Hiland putting forth a 15-0 run to take command in the game.
Having turned a 12-8 deficit into a 23-12 lead, Schlabach kept on firing and making triples, and the Hawks built its lead to 35-17 by the half.
Not only did Schlabach ignite the offense, the defense also dug in its heels after Indian Valley’s early success, and by allowing just five second-half points, Hiland was right back to its regular stingy defense.
While the game was not over, a 17-point deficit to the Hawks is like 30 to a lot of other teams because of that defense, and Hiland was about to turn on the offense to start the third period and put this one to bed.
After Karson Hartrick hit two free throws, Andy Miller started to show off a deft passing touch to set the table for a 10-0 Hiland run. It began when Miller sent a sensational behind-the-back pass to Korrie Hostetler, who completed an and-one. Andy Miller then fed Kody Miller, who was fouled and made both free throws. Kendall Hochstetler drilled a triple, and Andy Miller made a steal and went the distance for a 45-19 Hiland lead.
Ryan Berger and Cade Williams gave the Braves a small spurt of life to get them to within 47-27, a span that also saw Schlabach miss his lone 3-point attempt of the evening. However, with 15 seconds left in the third quarter, Schlabach swished home his eighth trey of the night to give the Hawks a 50-27 lead heading into the fourth period.
Once there, the Hawk would produce a fantastic 23-point quarter to easily pull away.
The two teams traded buckets during the first half of the final quarter with Andy Miller continuing his passing mastery. Sam Habeger scored on an and-one assisted by Andy Miller, and leading 60-36, Hiland was about to add to its lead.
Jared Raber hit a 3-pointer, Andy Miller drove the lane for two and Hostetler split two free throws for a 66-36 lead. Four points from Hunter Sommers and a lay-up from Kyle Miller would give Hiland its largest lead at 33 before Williams would complete an and-one to finish off the scoring.
Schlabach got plenty of help in the score book, where Hochstetler tallied up 13, Miller added nine, Hostetler scored eight, Habeger scored seven and Sommers ended with four. Berger led the Braves with 14 while Braden Rostad and Williams each added nine.
While Schlabach was busy igniting the Hiland crowd from downtown, Andy Miller was serving as a maitre d’. The senior point guard doled out a whopping 11 assists on the night, dishing it off to teammates in a variety of ways that made scoring look simple.
The win kept Hiland’s slate clean in the IVC South and locked up at least a share of the league title. On the night the Hawks were extremely efficient, making an impressive 12-of-19 three-pointers, 12-of-22 twos and 13-of-17 free throws for what was one of its best shooting evenings of the year.