Landon Troyer photos
The gymnasium at Claymont High School took on a very Dean-Smith-like look on Wednesday, Feb. 28 when Buckeye Trail tried to derail top-seeded Hiland in the Div. III girls East District semifinal basketball game.
Buckeye Trail got thumped by the Lady Hawks in their first encounter of the season on Dec. 17 at Buckeye Trail’s home court in a game that quickly took an ugly turn for the worst for the Warriors and eventually turned into a 75-14 debacle of a loss. The return trip to Hiland wasn’t much better for the Warriors as the Lady Hawks pounded out a 71-24 victory that looked very much like the first contest.
So after getting tossed about by the Lady Hawks in the first two games to the tune of a combined 107 points — an average of 53.5 points — Buckeye Trail head coach Chris Starr decided to try a new tactic in their tournament game.
Starr took the air out of the ball, having his team spread the floor and slow the game to a crawl in an effort to keep his team within striking distance.
“They completely took the air out of the ball, slowed it way down,” Hiland assistant coach David Borter said. “It was real Dean Smith four-corner’s stuff from the old days of North Carolina.”
The final result was an improvement over the average point loss, but in the end the Warriors still couldn’t stay close to Hiland, who continued its dominant ways over their Inter-Valley Conference South rival with a 55-14 victory.
The strategy actually kept the Warriors close early on. Hiland held just a 13-point lead at 21-8 at the half, an unusually low number of points for the Lady Hawks.
However, the problem was that Hiland’s smothering half-court defense pressured Buckeye Trail all over the floor as it tried to maintain possession, and that resulted in not many shots, and far fewer of those shots went in.
Buckeye Trail ended up going an ultra-ugly 4-of-38 from the floor, making exactly one action shot in all four of the quarters.
But while Hiland’s defense was swarming, its offense wasn’t putting fear into anyone either.
“We just struggled shooting the ball all night,” Hiland head coach Dave Schlabach said. “I think some of it had to do with the pace of the game, but it wasn’t pretty.”
The one Lady Hawk who was able to put the ball in the hole with regularity was junior Tiffany Weaver. Weaver connected on 7-of-11 action shots for a game-high 15 points, making her the only player to score in double figures for either team. Thus far in the three tournament games, Weaver is a white-hot 25-of-32 from the floor.
“Tiff has looked really, really good the past number of games,” Schlabach said. “I thought our post players all played a really nice game.”
Hiland seemed to right the offensive ship in the second half, scoring 18 points in the third quarter and 16 points over the final eight minutes, but the defense continued to haunt Buckeye Trail, holding the Warriors to just six second-half points. Sara Keim, Morgan McMillen and Kelsey Swihart helped turn a somewhat close game into a blowout win for Hiland.
The numbers for this game were truly odd with perhaps the most glaring difference, even more glaring than the final margin, being the rebounding edge Hiland posted. Led by Zoe Miller’s 10 boards, Hiland held a commanding rebounding advantage of 52 to 19.
“When a team only makes four shots, there are going to be a lot of rebound opportunities,” Borter said.
Hiland seemed to come down with just about all of them including 28 on the defensive glass and 24 offensive rebounds.
The win advances Hiland to the Div. III district final, where it will square off with a very familiar face in the Garaway Lady Pirates, another IVC South team they will be facing for the third time this season.
There will be no surprises there with both teams knowing the other extremely well. Both programs are well known for their tough all-out defense, and many people had these two teams squaring off in this district final game well before the season even began and Hiland moved into Div. III for the first time.
For more photos from this game, visit: For further photographs from this game, visit Landon Troyer’s website at: https://photosbylkt.pixieset.com/