Hiland Girls Basketball

The doctor is in, Hillmon helps Gilmour Academy slip by Lady Hawks in CitC finale

Naz Hillmon may some day be one of the finest doctors in America. But at 6-feet, 2-inches tall, if she ever wants to put aside her doctorly demeanor and put the fear of God into one of her patients, she could easily do it.

The aspiring doctor is currently a junior at Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, and her Lancers had the dubious task of squaring off with the Hiland Lady Hawks in the grand finale of Classic in the Country XIV January 16 at The Reese Center at Hiland High School.

Hillmon had a tremendous game, ruling the paint and making life miserable for Hiland inside on both ends of the floor, and led the Lancers to a 60-49 win, this coming one day after the Lancers collapsed and gave away a 17-point lead to Mason in an overtime loss.

But this time, G-A showed real fortitude in taking down an undefeated Hiland team that has been formidable all season long.

“We felt like there were some key players on the floor, and we tried our best to take them away,” said Gilmour Academy head coach Bob Beutel said.

Hillmon became key in that task, charged with controlling the paint and not allowing the Lady Hawks to penetrate, where they can be so dangerous.

“She is a stud, and that is why a lot of people want her to further her education at their institution,” said G-A head coach Bob Beutel. “She wants to be a doctor, and she is just a quality kid. She played a really great game.”

The Lancers did a monumental job on two of those Hiland players in Morgan McMillen and Kennedy Schlabach. McMillen went off for 26 points against Columbus Africentric earlier in the showcase, while Schlabach is a feared 3-point shooter. Gilmour Academy’s smothering defense held McMillen to just six points on 2-of-8 shooting, while Schlabach scored nine, but went 3-of-13 from the floor.

The one player the Lancers couldn’t account for was Angela Troyer, who hit 8-of-14 shots for 21 points, and at times seemed like the only player capable of keeping the Lady Hawks on the verge of victory.

However, for the most part, Hiland struggled to shoot the ball, and aside from Troyer, the team went an icy 10-of-45 for 22 percent.

“I thought we had some great looks early in the game, we just didn’t make them,” said Hiland coach Dave Schlabach, whose team came in shooting a blistering 50 percent from the floor. “I actually thought we looked tired. I thought they would be the team that was tired having played the night before, but this weekend is a grind, and a real test of fortitude for any team.”

Gilmour Academy came out hitting 3-pointers like it was making lay-ups. In bolting to a 15-7 first quarter lead, the Lancers collected each and every one of those points from beyond the arc. When Emily Kelley, who is zeroing in on capturing the all-time record for threes in a career in Ohio, dropped in her third trey of the game to begin the second quarter, Hiland found itself trailing 18-7.

Hillmon wasn’t scoring a lot, but she was finding her teammate for wide-open threes, and they were making them.

“I thought our posts did a pretty good job on (Hillmon), but it was more that we didn’t know where their shooters were at,” Troyer said. “That hurt us, but our posts did what they could with her.”

Later, down 23-12, Hiland finally got on track, and did so quickly. Melissa Hostetler hit two free throws after collecting an offensive rebound, Hiland forced a turnover and Sara Keim hit a jumper and McMillen hit two free throws after a steal.

After Naz Hillmon missed two free throws, Tiffany Weaver scored off a drive and Troyer gave Hiland new life, tying the game at 23 with a 3-pointer. Schlabach followed that with a triple, but Hillmon put Gilmour Academy back on top at the half with a score inside.

The start of the second half saw Troyer give Hiland its final lead at 28-27 on a long jumper, before the Lancers went to work.

A trey by Sydney Diedrich put G-A up 34-30, but the Lady Hawks answered with scores from Troyer and McMillen to tie it at 34. Hillmon and Emma Gurley pushed the lead back to four, and Keim hit a jumper to trim it to two points.

But over the closing moments of the third quarter and into the first two minutes of the fourth, G-A went on a 13-3 run that put Hiland in a huge hole, and it was Diedrich who scored seven of those points.

However, with time becoming an issue, the Lady Hawks would have one last push. Seven straight points from Troyer trimmed the G-A lead to 53-46. After Hillmon hit two free throws, Schlabach arched in a triple to make it 55-49, but Hiland’s rushed 3-point attempts down the stretch were well off the mark, and the Lancers hung on for the win, something they failed to do in giving away a 17-point lead in their overtime loss to Mason a day earlier.

“We showed some resiliency, and we never let Hiland get the momentum,” Beutel said. “We gave up the big lead yesterday, so we were able to hang on today.”

For Hiland, the sting of defeat for the first time is a sting they haven’t felt since dropping a regional semifinal last year in a game in which they went 1-of-26 from downtown.

This served the high-flying Lady Hawks as a reminder that nothing is a certainty. When Schlabach creates these match-ups at CitC, he does so with the intention of getting opponents who are more than capable of handing his team a defeat.

“This is a really good reminder,” Schlabach said. “The last time we sat in a locker room after a loss was Lake Ridge.”

And his Lady Hawks know exactly how that felt, so if losing now helps eliminate that feeling, they will all take it.

“Obviously none of us are thrilled about losing, but we needed it,” Troyer said. “It shows us what we need to work on, and we’d rather lose now than in March.”

In the two CitC games, Schlabach went just seven deep, meaning loads of minutes for players who haven’t been through that kind of rigor this season. The 25-year veteran coach said that he has to become more comfortable in trusting some other kids to step up and play minutes.

While the loss hurt, he noted that they got exactly what they had hoped for from the showcase, as Hiland played two incredibly talented teams with differing styles.

“I think we learned a good lesson with big kids, and we have to learn from this and get better at a few things,” Schlabach said. “I’ve been in this long enough to know that this was exactly what we needed. It would be nice to leave here feeling good about yourself, but it is more important for us to get better, and I think we did this weekend.”

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