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For the second night in a row, East and West Holmes went at it on the hardwoods, and for the second straight night, Holmes County hoops fans were treated to an exciting evening of basketball at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center.
Tuesday, the Knights were dealt their first loss of the season 41-36 by the Hawks in a defensive struggle.
"I wouldn't expect anything less out of these two teams," said West Holmes coach Lisa Patterson, whose team's 20-game winning streak was snapped. "We'll learn from it. Going into the tournament with one loss, we'll be all right."
Hiland (18-2) continues to play giant killer, getting physical against a bigger team. Jasmine Goings, the Hawks' tallest player, all 5-feet-10 inches of her, did the job of denying Laina Snyder anything inside.
"We didn't know if Jasmine was playing," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "She had not practiced in eight days. She was in a boot until two days ago with an ankle sprain. We were going to give her one rotation and see what happened from there. That's what you give your teammates in games like this, a great physical effort.
"Her and Natalie (Nickol) did the job," the coach continued. "I told them they didn't have to score a point or get a rebound. They just had to constantly be in Laina's way. She showed late, you're not going to stop her, just contain her."
Snyder was held without a point until 5:39 of the fourth quarter, when she scored inside to tie the game at 29-29. She finished with six points and 11 rebounds.
"They were extremely physical in the post, and their girls knocked down shots when they needed it," Patterson said.
Megan Beachy, who led the Hiland attack with 14 points, answered the Snyder score to put Hiland back up 31-29.
After a West Holmes miss, Kendra Schlabach stuck back a miss to extend the Hawks' lead to 33-29 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Knights' Rachelle Morrison answered with a triple to trim the lead back to one before Beachy scored on a driving layup to give Hiland a 35-32 lead with 2:12 to play.
After a Snyder score, Schlabach split a pair of free throws to give the Hawks a 36-34 edge with 1:04 remaining.
Goings, who finished with four points and five rebounds, split a pair of free throws with 40 seconds left. Snyder scored at the 21-second mark to pull West Holmes back to within one, 37-36.
Schlabach was fouled on the inbounds and swished the resulting free throws to give the Hawks a 39-36 lead with 19 seconds to play.
Justice Wright got off a clean look at a 3 as time ran down, but was unable to connect.
"It was an open shot. Justice can knock that shot down. I'd never tell Justice not to take that shot," Patterson said.
Schlabach had seen Wright make big shots against his team in years past, and was not thrilled to see her get such a clean look.
But he was glad with the outcome.
Kendra Schlabach was fouled on the rebound and swished a pair of free throws for the final score.
"It was an enjoyable game with so many good players on the floor," coach Schlabach said. "It came down to effort plays. We ran down a lot of loose balls. We were trying to defend their shooters, we were trying to figure out how to keep Laina away from the rim. It was a chess match going on out there. They're very well coached. It was a big win.
"Handling pressure late; we didn't turn it over. I mean, their kind of athletes, their kind of pressure, that's where our schedule pays off. You could just see it in our kids," Schlabach continued. "Our schedule has been phenomenal. What a great battle. That was a physical war. Win or lose, this game was going to be great for both teams. I wanted to win the game, obviously, but I just felt like it turned into the game I hoped it would be."
The game didn't start out very well for West Holmes.
The Knights were held without a field goal in the first quarter, missing all eight field goal attempts, including five from beyond the arc.
"It wasn't like we were scoring at will. It was a grind," Schlabach said. "This was two teams that were very well prepared, well scouted, everybody knew what everybody was doing, and who the scorers are."
The Hawks led 8-1 after the first quarter, but West Holmes batted back to within 14-11 at intermission.
Emily Molnar hit a running jumper to give the Knights their first lead at 15-14 early in the second half, and Morrison, who paced the Knights with 14 points, drained a 3-pointer to give the visitors an 18-14 lead three minutes into the third quarter.
Beachy buried a triple for the Hawks and a jumper by Schlabach put Hiland back on top, before Paiten Strother hit two free throws then stuck back a missed freebie to give the Knights a 24-20 late in the third. Beachy connected again from downtown to trim the West Holmes lead to one, 24-23 after three.
Molnar hit a jumper to start the fourth quarter, but Hochstetler answered with back-to-back triples to give the Hawks a 29-26 lead.
"Those shots Regina hit, were coming off of screens, 4-feet behind the line, with somebody running at her," Schlabach said. "It is our job to get her shots. Strother might be the best defender we'll play all year. We knew that and we were looking forward to that challenge. We just had to figure out ways to try and get (Regina) the basketball."
Hiland made 5-of-19 from beyond the arc, while West Holmes made 4-of-20. The Hawks made good on 10-of-15 from the free throw line, while the Knights hit 6-of-13.
Kendra Schlabach finished with nine points and six rebounds to back Beachy and Hochstetler.
"Taking free throws, handling the basketball, running the show, she's our calming effect, the quarterback," coach Schlabach said of the senior Schlabach. "The role players did what we wanted them to do."
The coach commended both teams.
"Defensive toughness, depth, physical play," Schlabach said. "There was a lot of pride shown out there by both groups. I'm sure they're disappointed, but I guess there will be some big games down the road where this game is going to matter that we both played in it."
Patterson hopes to put this loss behind.
"Our goal is still to play and not lose our last game," she said.