espite what scoreboard at state read at the finish, Hawks reached potential

espite what scoreboard at state read at the finish, Hawks reached potential

Image Credit: Paul A Miller

Jack had to protect his beanstalk turf from a giant.

David had his hands full in clashing with Goliath.

On Friday, March 18 at Dayton Arena in the Div. IV state semifinal clash, the Hiland Hawks got a taste of what those guys had to deal with in squaring off with a monstrously tall and talented Richmond Heights team.

Unlike Jack and David, the Hawks didn’t come out on the positive end, falling to the Spartans 59-21, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort that the Hawks ended their fantastic campaign.

Hiland may not have had many physical advantages, but it utilized what it did excel in to stay close. The assets the Hawks showcased were heart, hustle and defensive pressure in the half-court set.

It simply wasn’t enough against this juggernaut.

“Have we faced anyone better? I thought they were similar to Western Reserve Academy,” Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach said.

All season long Schlabach’s crew has exhibited an intense desire to defend. As they have done all season long, the Hawks gave a great effort, playing with great heart, but unfortunately for them, the road leading to the end of tournament play is littered with teams that gave great effort against opponents that are simply superior.

DeErik Barber got the game started with a 3-pointer and scored inside, but Sammy Detweiler answered with a pair of scores. Detric Hearst, Jr. then canned a trey, but Grant Miller’s three-ball and the Spartans’ sixth turnover was followed by a Dylan Weaver 3-pointer, giving the Hawks their first lead at 10-8. A Josiah Harris triple and Barber’s steal would put Richmond Heights back on top, but Grant Miller uncorked a buzzer-beating 3-pointer as time expired to draw the Hawks even at 13.

Then came the second quarter.

Hiland went completely cold in the period, failing to score for the majority of the quarter. Harris would score inside with another score from point-blank by Holloway. The two teams then traded four turnovers, and Maiden would score a pair inside to give the Spartans a 21-13 lead. On the verge of letting this one slip away, Grant Miller finally found the mark from downtown, his triple with 22 seconds to play in the quarter Hiland’s only points.

While that kind of production, or lack thereof, in a quarter could have been devastating, Schlabach and his troop could feel very good about being down by only five points heading into the half.

Hiland couldn’t score, but at the same time, a stupendous effort on the other end defensively helped keep the Hawks in the game.

“I thought we had a terrific first half, but we just ran out of gas,” Schlabach said of the second half. “We needed to score a couple buckets early in the half, and they didn’t come, and when you fall behind a team that good by 15 points, it puts a ton of pressure on you and takes you out of your game plan.”

But as is often the case when facing a giant, the big guy tends to wear its opponent down, which is what took place beginning the third quarter. Holloway hit a trey to open the half, and after Maiden shot two free throws, Harris scored on a put-back to give the Spartans a 28-16 lead.

Caden Miller hit a critical trey for the Hawks to make it 28-19, but Maiden’s bucket inside and Barber’s free throw pushed the lead back to 31-19. When Dorian Jones and Harris each nailed triples, the Spartans held their biggest lead at 37-19.

Chris Shetler scored inside late in the quarter, but Jones scored inside, and when Barber hit two free throws with eight seconds to play in the period, Richmond Heights was in command 43-21. The downfall for Hiland came in one statistic: Hiland scored just eight points in the middle two periods of play, and much of that was due to the Spartans’ incredible ability to use their athleticism and length to close out on shots outside while contending every single effort in the paint for the Hawks, where Hiland scored very few points.

However, if Hawks fans thought their team’s scoring was ugly during that span, it was about to get worse. Richmond Heights would go on to post a 16-0 fourth quarter to finish off the Hawks, simply overpowering Hiland at every turn.

For the game Hiland didn’t attempt a single free throw, and while it was OK from beyond the arc, hitting 5-of-17 three-point attempts, Hiland struggled immensely inside with Richmond Heights’ height, making an anemic 3-of-21 shots inside. Meanwhile, the Spartans shot a blistering 61% for the game including a nifty 7-of-12 from downtown.

Richmond Heights also held a dominating 32-11 rebounding edge, getting second and third chances on the offensive glass time and again.

Grant Miller ended his career with the Hawks with a nine-point effort, all on threes, while Detweiler added four, Caden Miller and Weaver each scored three, and Shetler added two. Holloway and Maiden each scored 12, and Harris added 10 to lead the Spartans.

The loss ended a terrific season for Hiland, which finished 23-5 while Richmond Heights moved on at 24-4. The Spartans would go on to clock New Madison Tri-Village 50-29 in the finals to claim their school’s first state title. The Hawks say goodbye to a strong senior group including Grant Miller, Caden Miller, Weaver, Shetler and Tony Yoder.

“These seniors understood their roles so well,” Schlabach said. “The leadership was off the charts. What’s more is they loved to practice, and that is why we got better and better.”

Schlabach said after watching his team’s first summer scrimmage, he wasn’t sure if they’d win more than a handful of games. His kids kept working and produced a season he and his staff didn’t expect.

“This team practiced so hard, and that is their legacy,” Schlabach said. “What a great example they set for all of our young kids coming up through the program.”

Schlabach said this team is a prime example of what teams and individuals can accomplish when they dedicate themselves to working hard and filling roles that utilize their individual gifts and talents.

He said earlier this year he and his staff judge a team’s success on whether they reached their potential. He said this group went above and beyond what the staff believed possible, making this a success.

“This group came so far,” Schlabach said. “We got great leadership. Younger kids like Sammy (Detweiler) and Alex (Yoder) came along faster than we could have hoped in their development. This team achieved so much.”

Over the past six years, the Hawks have played 170 games, meaning they average about 28 games per year, which means they have gone a long way in tournament play. Schlabach said that only happens when kids buy into a philosophy and pore themselves into working at the game.

He said this team truly is proof of that spirit, no matter what the final scoreboard said in Dayton.

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