Garaway celebrated its 23rd victory of the season after a decisive 69-47 win over Hiland in the Div. III district final at New Philadelphia Friday, March 4.
Who was the MVP of the game? It could have been one of half a dozen players.
None of them cared.
All season long, the mantra for this team has been “Let’s win as a team.” The Pirates did just that, and celebrated as one.
“It’s been the story of the year,” said Garaway guard Ty Hamsher. “We don’t care who gets the credit, as long as we get that ‘W’ we’re good. We’ve been preparing all year for this. All offseason, and we have seen great athletes like we faced tonight all year. But our preparation through practice allowed us to perform under pressure, but we have done it by playing so well as a team. It’s been special to see this team come together this year.”
The “One Team” mentality has been something head coach Dave Shutt has preached since long before the season began, and the players have bought in.
“I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand time, these kids don’t care who gets the credit, they just play,” said Shutt. “That is a culture we have developed from day one, and they have taken it to heart.”
Hawks’ graduating ‘four-of-a-kind’ will leave a gaping hole
The Hiland Hawks’ senior foursome of Austin Mast, Michael Miller, Brady Schlabach and Bruce Troyer aren’t the most gifted athletes to come through the Hiland system over the past half-decade.
But sometimes pure athleticism can’t be measured in terms of how high kids can jump, how fast they can run and how quick they are.
Sometimes it is the size of the heart, the leadership qualities and the spirit that make a player so valuable.
Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach has seen what those four seniors have meant to the program, and he said replacing them will be far harder than most people will ever realize.
“For those four guys, basketball is really important,” said Schlabach of his senior quartet. “They aren’t super-talented athletes, but they are all just basketball guys through and through.”
Which was why Brady Schlabach sat red-eyed following his final game, and why Miller’s acceptance of the team’s district runner-up trophy was accompanied by a head hung low.
Basketball courses through their hearts. They live it daily, and now it is done.
“I’m worried about our program with those guys leaving, because we don’t have a lot of kids who feel the way those four kids feel about the game of basketball.”
It may be just a game, when you care so deeply, and pour yourself into it for most of your life, the game and life meld into one. That is why these four seniors have played such an integral role in the continuing success of the Hiland basketball program, and why Coach Schlabach knows they will be far tougher to replace than anyone can imagine.