Hiland Boys Basketball

Tigers ‘slip’ past Hawks 37-35 in an IVC white-knuckler

Tigers and Hawks go down to the wire

In basketball, players slip all the time. However, when that slip comes with one second to play when a player is driving for the tying score, it gets magnified.

There was every reason for fans to believe that the boys basketball game between visiting Strasburg and Hiland would be a great one in Hiland’s season-opener on Dec. 8. Fans were not disappointed, treated to a thrill ride of a game that came down to the final one second, where a slip helped Strasburg escape Berlin with a 37-35 win.

The game didn’t start out like a nail-biter.

After five trips down the floor, the Hawks boasted a 10-0 lead, and the Reese Center was rocking big-time as the home team looked poised to go to work on the defending Inter-Valley Conference champs.

“It’s happened to us before in this building,” Strasburg head coach Adam Hall said with a chuckle, referring to the torrid Hiland start. Only this time his crew responded well to adversity. “We knew they were going to come out and be excited because it was their first game of the season and they got to play at home.”

Then it looked like someone just crawled up on the hoop and put a force field over it. Hiland simply couldn’t put the ball in the hole, and at the end of the first quarter, Strasburg’s deficit was just one point at 12-11. By halftime the Tigers were down by just two at 20-18.

“We didn’t shoot well,” Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said. “After we started missing shots, we didn’t do a very good job of figuring out ways to get easy hoops. We settled [for any available shot], didn’t get to the foul line and they controlled tempo.”

While Hiland couldn’t shoot straight, the Tigers were struggling with Hiland’s impressive defensive pressure from their scary-quick guards.

“Defensively they took us out of everything we wanted to do,” Hall said. “We couldn’t simulate in practice what they were going to do. We talked about it, but having to go through it was tough.”

The hoop wasn’t any more forgiving in the third period for Hiland. Mitch Neidenthal tied the score at 20, but it took more than three minutes for either team to score as the defenses clamped down. However, moments later Andrew Cregan scored inside. Then Kendall Hostetler finally got one to fall for the Hawks, and the game was locked up at 22.

The rest of the quarter was all Strasburg. Mike Neidenthal scored on a drive along the baseline, Mitch Neidenthal buried a triple and Race King scored on a pair of free throws. Suddenly Strasburg was leading 29-22 through three periods.

Hiland badly needed someone to step up and get them back in the game, and that someone was senior guard Scott Troyer. Troyer scored on a drive and a trey around a pair of Mitch Neidenthal free throws, and then he scored on a drive to push the Tigers’ lead back to six at 33-27.

“Our guards made some uncharacteristic turnovers in the first half, but I thought we settled in and did a better job of protecting the ball in the second half,” Hall said.


(Sorry for the misspelled name on the tweet Andrew!)

Andy Miller’s driving layup trimmed the deficit to four points, but Cregan struck again inside for the Tigers. With time becoming an issue, the Tigers had a pair of chances to enhance their lead, but both of the Neidenthals missed the front ends of one-and-ones, and when Troyer went slashing down the lane to score with 32 seconds to play, the score was locked up at 35, and the Reese Center was once again in bedlam.

Strasburg worked the ball around for a good shot and found one when Cregan worked his way into the paint and knocked down a short runner in the lane.

With 6.1 seconds to play, the Hawks had time to tie it or win it with a 3-pointer, but Hall wisely fouled with three seconds to play. The ensuing inbounds pass from mid-court was tipped out of bounds near the far corner, and with 2.4 seconds left, Hiland had a tough angle from which to inbound the ball.

The Hawks couldn’t have asked for a better inbound play. Troyer received the ball at the top of the key on the move and slashed down the lane between Cregan and Mitch Neidenthal. However, as Troyer slashed his way to the hole with one second to play, he lost his footing and went down, the ball careening out of bounds with 0.3 seconds left. Cregan simply hoisted a high pass down the floor, where it was tipped, and time expired.

“They are a good team, and they are going to continue to get better throughout the year, and so are we,” Hall said. “We expect to see them some time down the road.”

That would have to be in the IVC Showcase, in the Div. IV tournament or very likely both. It won’t happen in the regular season due to the two teams playing in opposite divisions in the league.

Both teams left the center believing they hadn’t played anywhere near their best basketball.

“About the only time we executed the entire game was the first two minutes and the last minute and a half,” Schlabach said. “Strasburg controlled the tempo of that game for 30 minutes. That was their tempo. We don’t want to score 36 points. We want to score 76 points. But you have to make shots to make other people play faster, and we didn’t do that. That was fool’s gold early. Making shots covers up for a lot of things. When we stopped doing that, offensively it was a struggle. When we give up 37 points, we’ve gotta win.”

Strasburg was paced by Mitch Neidenthal’s 14 points while Cregan added 11. Race King scored six, and Donald Seward, stepping in for the ill Jacob Farthing, played a huge roll in scoring four points and defending the paint.

Hiland got a team-high 13 points from Troyer with 11 of those coming in the final quarter. Miller, Hostetler and Kobe Troyer all scored six points.

Cregan, who came up huge down the stretch and scored the game-winner, said leaving the Reese Center with a win doesn’t come without a total team effort. “If they would have taken that shot, no doubt they would have made it too,” Cregan said of his guards. “We work those plays all the time, three-guard stuff like that. They know that if teams double-hook over the top, we’ll be there to finish it.”

When is a home-court advantage not a home court advantage?

Everyone believes that opening the season at home against a league champion is a sure-fire way to create a home-court advantage. The adrenaline was definitely pumping, and the Reese Center was electric, but sometimes when a team gets too amped up, it throws off the mechanics of their game, with their shots in particular.

Hiland has shot the ball very well this summer but couldn’t connect in their opening season loss to Strasburg.

Can adrenaline be a detriment? “I think it can a little bit,” Schlabach said. “We were gassed at times tonight. We had to call two timeouts tonight because we were gassed, and I can’t remember the last time we had that happen.”

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