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The Hiland Lady Hawks pounded away at their foe Tuesday, Jan. 14 at the Perry Reese Center.
It was a battle unlike any the Lady Hawks had experienced to date this season. They were pushed, hammered, and run to the point of exhaustion in the one hour, 20 minute test of their will and strength.
The opponent was not on the schedule, nor was it a game that counted.
The foe was the Hiland boys junior varsity team, and the scrimmage was a way for coach Dave Schlabach to prepare his team for the upcoming Classic in the Country XI games against Archbishop Alter and Wooster.
“We were tired,” said Schlabach after his team had fended off Strasburg one night later, winning 56-30.
“We went against the JV boys, hard,” said Schlabach of his Lady Hawks. “It didn’t surprise me that we looked a little tired tonight. We have practiced against the freshman boys some, but this was an extremely difficult, physical challenge for us to face the JV guys. It was good for us, but we looked tired.”
Not only were they tired, but Strasburg came in with a game plan on how to attack Hiland, and for a while made a game of things against the Lady Hawks.
Strasburg coach Jess Miller had her young Tigers hungry and ready to compete, and they did.
Deidre Saurenheimer got Strasburg off on the right foot by draining a 3-pointer.
The Hiland started to do what everyone expected, and reeled off 10 straight, getting five apiece from Jenica Schrock and Megan Beachy.
Strasburg called time-out, and trailing 10-3 after one, got to work. Makenzie McGaha scored on a lay-up, Talena Starn hit a jumper, and after Schrock canned another triple, Melissa Cregan answered in kind to make it 13-9.
Hiland then used the rest of the second quarter to begin pulling away, outscoring the Tigers 16-5, mostly on the strength of point guard Emily Yoder’s strong play.
The biggest surprise of the half may have been that high-scoring All-Ohioan Regina Schlabach was held scoreless, her three fouls landing her on the bench much of the half.
“We wanted to minimize Regina’s opportunities,” said Miller of the Hiland star. “We wanted to try to make someones else on their team beat us, not that they don’t have players who can’t do that.
“I thought Melissa (Cregan) did a nice job on her, and then she got in foul trouble.”
Trailing 29-14 at the half, Strasburg sandwiched another Saurenheimer three and a McGaha lay-up around a Rachel Horn bucket to carve the deficit to 31-19, but Hiland would then reel off seven straight, five of those coming from Hochstetler, her only five points of the night.
BY the end of three quarters Hiland led 44-23, and Schlabach’s bench played well in building the lead late, and despite the 26 point lead, gave kudos to Strasburg.
“I give Jess a lot of credit,” said Schlabach of his coaching counterpart. “She came in with a plan. They played hard all night, they were prepared and competed. I like the effort I saw from them tonight, and they got better form the last time we played them.”
Schlabach said that without Hochstetler scoring at all, it was up to others to step up, and he had several players do so. Schrock, who has played inspired ball all season, was one, scoring 12, as did Beachy. Yoder added seven and Brittany Miller chipped in with six.
Schlabach added that several players have begun to pick up their games, and this game continued that trend. Beachy continues to gain confidence, and Schlabach said that she, Sasha Goings and Yoder are all continuing to get back to where they were a year ago in terms of productivity.
Considering the Lady Hawks came off the brutal practice the night before, that kind of effort is what Schlabach wanted to see, especially on tired legs.
“This game is always hard,” said Schlabach of basketball. “with everything that is looming, with a big weekend, the goal tonight was not get anyone hurt, get all the kids involved and try to play hard. I think tonight was a bit of a grind, and that was good for us going into two tough Classic games.”
While Hiland got a win, to move to 14-1 on the year, Strasburg (7-7) left feeling like it had gained some insight into its team as well.
“We have stressed effort from day one this year, and especially in a game like this,” said Miller of the Tigers. “I am pretty proud of the girls. I know with a 26 point loss, you might think that is pretty bad, but it was the way we competed the whole way. We improved a lot since the last time we played them.”