Hiland Boys Basketball

Tigers edge Hawks 47-45 in a classic OT game of huge importance

Strasburg's Henry Malcuit, Hiland's Chris Kline and everyone involved played their hearts out in an instant classic.

The Strasburg Tigers and Hiland Hawks played one of those games on Tuesday, February 7 that makes people relish the thought of being a high school basketball fan.

That was the kind of all-out effort, grit, determination and heart both teams exhibited in a game that held some seriously huge connotations.

It is not difficult to see why the Tigers’ faithful flooded the floor following the 47-45 victory that wasn’t determined until an extra four minutes had been played, as emotions were on high alert in Strasburg.

Since the 2007-2008 season, Hiland had emerged victorious in 21-of-23 prior contests between these two schools, each with a rich history. Strasburg had not beaten Hiland since the 2009-2010 season, a span of 14 straight losses for the Tigers.

Even after the Hawks had dropped this tight game, there were Hiland fans who noted that they realized the importance of the win for Strasburg, and they were actually excited for the Tigers’ players and their fans.

The Strasburg players certainly understood the importance of the game’s outcome, especially on the heels of Hiland’s 54-36 whipping of the Tigers earlier this season at the Reese Center at Hiland High School.

“That first game, we have had that game on our minds all season,” said senior Henry Malcuit, who hadn’t beaten Hiland during his four-year varsity career until now. “We have been working hard, knowing that this game was coming up, and this us such a big win for our program.”

“It’s an amazing experience, I’m not even sure how to put it into words,” said Nick Walczak, who played very well in scoring a dozen points. “It feels unreal after we got beat pretty bad by them the first time through.”

“This is a huge win in a lot of ways,” said guard Mike Neidenthal, who handled Hiland’s pressure all night. “This ties us for the league lead. I have definitely not been in a more exciting game this year than this one.”

Strasburg bolted out of the gate, taking a 7-0 lead on the strength of scores from Neidenthal, Jared Burnsworth and Shevin Javersak, and Javersak added a free throw.

However, Turner Horn’s three-ball finally took the lid off the rim for Hiland, which quickly got to within 9-7 on Kobe Troyer’s jumper.

Walczak then kind of took over the rest of the quarter as he slashed his way to the hole three straight times, and gave the Tigers a 15-11 lead through one quarter.

Javersak sandwiched a triple between 3-pointers from Horn and Scott Troyer, and with the score at 18-16, it was game on.

Both clubs played with incredible intensity, as Kobe Troyer gave Hiland its first lead at 21-20 when he nailed a trey.

Strasburg responded by getting to the rim and getting fouled, and Malcuit, Walczak and Neidenthal all hit two free throws, leaving the Tigers up 26-21 with 96 seconds to play in the half.

That was when Hiland coach Mark Schlabach took the air out of the ball and had Andy Miller simply hold it near mid-court, as the seconds ticked away. It was a strategic move on Schlabach’s part, since several of his players were bordering on foul trouble.

“We actually thought about doing that with 2:30 left to play,” Schlabach said. “But we got defensive rebounds that kind of naturally led to fast breaks. We just wanted to get out of the half without any more fouls. If we leave down five, we were OK with that, and we had a chance to trim the lead to get momentum, but not getting anyone in foul trouble was the key.”

Hiland regrouped quickly, as Horn hit a three-ball to begin the second half, and Kobe Troyer stayed hot, connecting on two more long balls in the period to keep Hiland close. When Miller drove for a score near the end of the quarter, Strasburg’s lead was down to one at 33-32, and the Tigers were about to get their stiffest test of the night.

Hiland stormed off the bench and seized the lead by five at 38-33. Chris Kline drove for four points, then found Horn inside with a great entry pass for the lead.

However, Strasburg didn’t panic. Walczak made two key free throws, and after Kline zipped down the lane for a deuce, Mitch Neidenthal scored inside to trim the deficit to 40-37. Strasburg got a key steal from Walczak, and with 55 seconds left, Mike Neidenthal would drive the left baseline, get fouled and complete an and-one to tie things at 40.

Those would be the final points of regulation, not that both teams didn’t have some really good opportunities to end this one in regulation.

Horn’s driving lay-up rolled around the rim and didn’t fall, leaving Strasburg with 20 seconds to score. However, Javersak’s three from the top of the key was right on line, but just short, and this classic confrontation was headed for OT.

Strasburg coach Adam Hall looked his kids in the eye during the huddle before the start of overtime and gave them a gentle reminder.

“This is what high school basketball is all about,” Hall said to his players. ‘”Put a smile on, go out and have fun. We told the kids not many 16-17-year-olds have an opportunity to play in a game of this magnitude in the regular season, and it was because of the work they put in.”

In the overtime period, Malcuit took over. He drove hard to the hole for a score, but Scott Troyer one-upped him with a dazzling and-one at the other end. Malcuit went right back to work, and drove for another score to put Strasburg up 44-43.

Kobe Troyer then misfired on a jumper and Javersak was fouled following the miss. The senior calmly sank both ends to put the Tigers up 46-43. After a Hiland miss, Malcuit split two free throws to put Strasburg up 47-43, but with 22 seconds left, Horn made an incredible tough jumper over the outstretched hand of Javersak, trimming the deficit to 47-45.

When Strasburg missed the front-end of a one-and-one, Hiland had life.

With time winding down, Hiland worked the ball around, and got the shot it wanted, with Kobe Troyer lining one up from the top of the key. His 3-pointer went half way down before rimming out, and the rebound caromed to Race King, who was fouled with 1.2 seconds to play. King missed, Hiland rebounded and was forced to go the length of the floor with 0.7 seconds to play.

Hiland’s long heave down the floor on the inbounds pass wasn’t enough, and the Tigers and their fans stormed the floor.

Schlabach was extremely stoic and complimentary following the loss, because he understood what kind of effort both teams had just put into this thrilling contest.

“We knew they would be ready, and they were,” Schlabach said of Strasburg. “We can’t fault our kids at all. They played extremely hard. We had some shots at the end that we wanted, but they just didn’t quite fall. Those were the guys we wanted shooting the ball. In the end they made a few more plays than we did, but it was a great ball game.”

Javersak and Walczak led the Tigers with 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Malcuit and Mike Neidenthal both added nine.

Kobe Troyer and Horn also scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, and both hit some huge shots to keep Hiland in the game throughout the contest. Kline added eight and Scott Troyer scored six for the Hawks.

Having gone through the grinder, both teams had nothing but words of praise for both their own teams and for their opponent. “They are a really great team, and it is great for us to get a win over a program like that,” Malcuit said.

Hall said he was so impressed with the way his team stayed calm in the face of that kind of pressure. “After what happened up there (at Hiland) we kind of circled this date on our calendar,” Hall said. “Our kids played so hard all night. We faced some adversity when we got behind in the fourth quarter, but we hung in there and battled back.”

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