Paul Miller photos
Racking up 40 points might not seem like a monumental accomplishment in a boys high school basketball game, but when it comes to earning points against Hiland’s stingy defense, 40 is actually a pretty large number.
The Triway Titans found their way to 40 and gave Hiland, the state’s top-ranked Div. IV team, a run for its money before faltering down the stretch as the Hawks earned a 54-40 victory in The Pit at Triway High School on Tuesday, Jan. 15.
Considering Hiland was giving up just 29 points per game over its past four wins over East Canton, Garaway, Indian Valley and Mansfield St. Peter’s, none of whom scored more than 35 points, Triway’s 40 could be seen as somewhat of an outpouring of points, albeit a number that most teams would love to give up on any given night.
For awhile it was Chance Wells versus the world as the Triway sharpshooter stormed out of the locker room onto the floor and started exacting darts to his intended target. Wells gave the Titans plenty of energy and reason to be optimistic that an upset might be abrewin’ as he knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and 10 points in a first quarter that saw him stun Hiland’s defense. In response the Hawks countered with their own not-so-secret weapon in senior Kendall Hochstetler, who matched Wells score for score to tally 11 points including a trio of triples, and when the smoke had cleared, the two teams were tied at 15-all through one period.
After that outburst Hiland’s classic team defense settled into its usual routine, although neither team went nuts on offense, allowing Triway to hang around.
The second period would belong to Hunter Summers, who would catch fire and post six of his eight points. Meanwhile, Hiland began focusing more of its attention on Wells, who was limited to one triple. Sommers’ quarter allowed the Hawks to inch out to a 27-22 half-time lead, thanks to late scores from Hochstetler and Korrie Hostetler, but Triway was not about to disappear any time soon and didn’t completely wilt under Hiland’s terrifying man-to-man pressure.
Triway spread it around on offense in the third quarter with five players notching two-pointers while Kyle Miller dropped a trey for the Hawks and helped Hiland inch out to a 39-32 advantage heading into the final eight minutes of play.
David Nolan and Chance Wells each scored midway through the final period to draw the Titans closer at 35-32, but Hiland would clamp down, create some good looks on offense and go on a nine-point run to seal the deal for good.
It wouldn’t be until that run that Hiland would finally exert itself, once again allowing its defense to lead the way, and the Titans would eventually fall behind by double-digits.
Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach said coming into the game that his staff and team realized how dangerous this Titans team can be anywhere, but especially on their home floor, where purple magic seems to run rampant in dashing the hopes of opposing teams.
Chance Wells ended up with a team-high 19 points for the Titans, popping in four 3-pointers en route to his big night. Younger brother Channer Wells added six points to the cause for Triway. Hiland got a game-high 21-point effort from Hochstetler, but he got more help with Andy Miller, Sommers and Sam Habeger all contributing eight points to the cause while Hostetler added six.
Defensively the rebounding game was even at 28 with Chance Wells and Kyle Bresson grabbing six for Triway while Bryce Biggs added five. Hiland was paced by Hochstetler and Hostetler, who each hauled down seven caroms. Andy Miller added five assists for the Hawks while Chance Wells dished out four for the Titans.
Hiland’s win advanced its record to 13-1 on the season while the Titans fell to 8-5 on the year.