Classic in the Country

Third-quarter blitz sends Lady Hawks to 42-33 win over Margaretta in CitC

Lady Hawks and Lady Bears lay it on the line at CitC

Photos by James Wagler

“That was exactly what we needed,” Hiland Lady Hawks head coach Dave Schlabach said after his team had derailed Margaretta 42-33 at Classic in the Country on Saturday, Jan. 19. “We were so hurried, and we were freaking out in the first half. That is the first legitimate game we have been in since the very first game of the season.”

It may have been cold and icy outside on day one of the 16th annual Classic in the Country, but that paled in comparison to the ice-cold shooting of the Hiland Lady Hawks in the fourth and final game of day one.

Hiland, which hasn’t been in a challenging game since Nov. 24 when it suffered its only loss to Centerville, looked rusty and out of sorts as it faced a talented, quick and well-coached Margaretta team that came into the CitC as a replacement, due to cancellations from the weather.

Zoe Miller scored inside and then dropped in a long trey to give the Lady Hawks the early five-point cushion.

“There were some nerves, and we were excited, and right off the bat they hit us in the chin, and we took it and took an eight-point lead into halftime,” Margaretta head coach Eric Kochendoerfer said.

Faythe Smetzer then hit a triple, and Morgan Miller drove the paint for a pair. Smetzer scored inside, and Aila Miller moved Hiland ahead 9-5 with a bucket in the paint.

Eventually Elliana Schaefer’s trey helped the Lady Bears tie the game at 9-9 as Hiland went completely silent on offense for more than three minutes. Brynn Mullet split two free throws to momentarily give Hiland a one-point edge, but Smetzer was wide-open underneath to give Margaretta an 11-10 lead through the first period.

Kennedi Hilton popped a 3-pointer to start the second period, and the Lady Hawks faced a four-point deficit for the first time in eons. Taylor Malson clicked on a short jumper off of a steal, and Margaretta had a chance to turn another turnover into an eight-point lead but missed, and Krista Troyer responded with a drive to trim Hiland’s deficit to 16-12.

Rockell Kuns scored inside, and Jayden Moore hit two freebies to push the Lady Bears lead back to eight at 20-12. The ice-cold Lady Hawks continued to struggle against Margaretta’s tough man-pressure and continued to rush to get shots off. Moore clicked again inside to push the Lady Bears to their biggest lead at 22-12.

An Aila Miller jumper stemmed the tide for Hiland late in the period, but a horrible first half of ice-cold shooting left the Lady Hawks trailing 22-14.

The attitude and effort changed vastly for the Lady Hawks as the second half began, and it looked like Hiland custodian Wayne Miller had suddenly cranked up the temperature to red-hot.

“We told the girls at halftime that Hiland is a great team, and we needed to take control of the first three minutes of the second half,” Kochendoefler said. “That is always our speech. But they came out and created some turnovers, maybe six out of the first seven possessions, and they got some momentum, and it was tough to catch them after that.”

Zoe Miller scrambled after a miss, tore it away from a defender and turned it into two, then made a steal. Krista Troyer then found Brynn Mullet open on the wing for a 3-pointer, and Hiland trimmed its deficit to 22-19. Moments later Mullet made a steal and drained another 3-pointer, and at the 6:07 mark, Hiland had pulled even at 22.

“I wasn’t shooting it very confidently, and I knew I had to come out in the second half and not let it get to my head,” Mullet said. “So I kept shooting, and they started going in.”

It led Margaretta to begin face-guarding the hot-shooting Mullet in the fourth period. “No one’s ever face-guarded me before, so I didn’t know what to do at first,” Mullet said.

Krista Troyer made a steal on the next possession, but Hiland couldn’t convert it into points. Brynn Mullet’s steal did result in points as Zoe Miller found Kendra Shetler in the paint, and the Lady Hawks led 24-22. It wasn’t until the 3:45 mark that Wilson finally nailed a trey to give Margaretta the lead back at 25-24. That lasted one trip down the floor as Zoe Miller hit two free throws.

Krista Troyer’s steal resulted in her free throw, and the Lady Hawks held a slim 27-25 lead with 2:06 left in the quarter. Troyer then found Mullet for her third 3-pointer, and Hiland had regained its initial five-point lead at 30-25.

They weren’t done as Yoder found Shetler inside for a score. With time running down, Yoder threw a gorgeous long pass to a streaking Kyli Horn, who laid it in and completed an and-one for a 35-25 Hiland lead through three quarters.

“I felt like we really picked it up defensively, and we were told at halftime that we needed to pick it up,” said Hiland junior Krista Troyer, who came up with a couple of big steals as Hiland clamped down on defense. “We felt like we were able to cut them off and take away their best ways of scoring. They got on a run in the first half, and they had so much energy, but coming off of Brynn’s threes, we knocked them down, and our energy level went boosting through the roof.”

While Hiland’s offense had sprung to life, it was its defense that cranked the heat up.

Kelsi Swihart and Malson traded scores, but Mullet canned her fourth triple to push the Hiland lead to 13 at 40-27. Jennah Yost got the Lady Bears to within 10 on a 3-pointer at the 4:30 mark, and at 2:40 Hilton followed suit. Hiland’s lead was down to 40-33.

Zoe Miller got loose inside for two and grabbed a miss on the other end, which resulted in Hiland being able to run a large amount of time off the clock. The Lady Hawks were able to kill the final 47 seconds without taking a shot with some precision passing, and the Lady Hawks had survived what was finally a good challenge with a 42-33 win.

“We spoke loudly at halftime, and I was actually glad we were in the situation we were in,” Schlabach said. “We needed to be down like that. I thought our depth finally paid off, and we slowed down and relaxed. We are a good rebounding team, and we finally got that going. We are appreciative of the battle they gave us. They took away Zoe in the post and took away Brynn in the first half. We needed that physical battle because none of these kids have ever played in a big game.”

Zoe Miller ended the night with 11 points and 14 rebounds to pace the Lady Hawks to a 40-18 advantage on the glass. Mullet scored 13 points on four threes while Aila Miller and Shetler both chipped in with four points and four boards apiece. Margaretta was led by Hilton, Malson and Smetzer, who all tallied seven points. Moore added four points and five rebounds on the night.

“They take care of the basketball, and we knew we weren’t going to turn them over as much as we normally do,” Kochendoerfer said. “That’s a great team. We wanted to get them to play fast and get out of their sets, but in the third quarter we got rattled a little bit and had some uncharacteristic turnovers. Take away the third quarter and we are walking out of here with a victory, but unfortunately it is a four-quarter game.”

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