Hoops spotlight was on boys and girls Holmes County teams last week

By KEVIN LYNCH Staff Writer Published:

For two days last week, the eyes of the basketball world were on Holmes County as Hiland and West Holmes went toe-to-toe on back-to-back nights.

The boys played Monday night at West Holmes and then the girls went at it on Tuesday over in the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center in Berlin.

Both nights, the fans were treated to some high drama, uplifting individual performances and some top quality basketball.

It snowed all day on Monday, but that wasn't enough to keep a couple thousand hoops fans from filling the Dungeon for the annual battle for bragging rights.

Hiland isn't quite the same this year, with four of the five starters from last year's state championship team all playing college hoops at the present time.

But the young team Mark Schlabach has this season is playing with an abundance of energy and enthusiasm, while displaying some skills along the way.

The young Hawks played with the seasoned Knights right from the start, until Brady Arnold took over in the fourth quarter. The junior star of West Holmes pumped in 17 points in the fourth quarter alone, finishing the night with 32 points as the Knights narrowly nipped the Hawks 68-61.

Because the Knights' football team went so deep into the season, the original season-opening game was postponed to Monday.

It's a good thing for the Hawks, too, because they have improved immensely since the beginning of the season.

And even though they lost two consecutive games, falling to Garaway on Friday before they played the Knights, the team is showing much more poise and has developed an identity. Coach Schlabach and his staff have done a great job molding this young team into a cohesive group that can contend with anybody.

Then on Tuesday, the Lady Knights went over to Hiland and were handed their first loss of the season after winning the first 20 games rather convincingly.

It didn't help that the Knights were held without a field goal in the first quarter, tossing up enough bricks to construct a small house.

It was a physical game in which the path to the basket was pretty much a stonewall on both ends of the floor.

It took some hot shooting streaks by Hiland's Megan Beachy and then Regina Hochstetler to help the Hawks bring down the No. 1 team in the state in Div. II.

Some people were surprised by Hiland's ability to pull off the upset, but to me, it wasn't all that much of an upset. Many of Hiland's players have been in many a big game, including playing in the state championship game last season. The girls were playing good basketball.

Unfortunately, the euphoria was short-lived, as on Saturday, the Hawks were hammered by Div. I powerhouse Wadsworth. All three losses by Hiland this year have been to Div. I teams, two of which are top-ranked teams in the state in No. 1 Twinsburg and the sixth-ranked Grizzlies.

Wooster was the only other team to top the Hawks.

Perhaps suffering a hangover from Tuesday, the Lady Knights needed a huge fourth-quarter comeback on Thursday to overcome a 13-point deficit against Mansfield Senior to pull out a win in their regular season finale. Hopefully that wake-up call will lift the girls as they embark on the tournament trail this evening.

The Knights boys weren't so lucky on their trip to Mansfield on Friday. After jumping out to a 27-17 lead after the first quarter, West Holmes couldn't sustain the energy level as the Tygers came roaring back to win an exciting, fast-paced 80-76 shootout.

It was a great week of hoops on the local hardwoods, and as the second season gets under way, it's only going to get better.

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