- 1 of 2 Photos | View More Photos
BERLIN -- Geographic proximity makes Hiland and West Holmes natural rivals in interscholastic sports. On the floor, it's one of the fiercest and most antagonistic competitions in all of Ohio girls basketball with the two powerhouse programs splitting the last 10 meetings heading into the Dec. 10 contest at Hiland's Perry Reese Center.
This time, though, Hiland got the best of the Knights in the 32nd "Battle of Holmes County."
Kennedy Schlabach scored a game-high 23 points, and Morgan McMillen added 19 as the Hawks romped to a 77-19 victory over the Knights, the largest margin of victory in series history. Angela Troyer added 13 markers for Hiland (4-0), while Jessica Troyer added nine points, five rebounds, seven assists, and four steals.
Kaylor Perone led West Holmes, now 3-2 on the season, with nine points.
"Last year when we lost (at West Holmes), we had some younger girls who were playing significant roles for the first time, and maybe we treated that game as a measuring stick," said 26th-year Hiland coach Dave Schlabach. "This year we've cut down on scouting reports and watching film on opponents, as we're now more concerned about just taking care of us first. We've played fast in the last couple of years, but this year we want to play even faster. Our pressure was terrific tonight, and we executed very well in transition. Our girls did a great job of finding the open shooters and executing our game plan."
Perhaps the importance of the game led to some nervous play in the beginning, as Hiland led just 7-6 with 3:24 remaining in the opening period. After that, however, it was all Hawks. And then some.
Angela Troyer and Schlabach combined to score seven quick points to make it 14-7, then a Tiffany Weaver bucket in the closing seconds gave the Hawks a 16-7 advantage after one period.
A 17-4 run to open the second quarter stretched the Hiland lead to 33-9 with 2:21 left until halftime, as McMillen, Schlabach, and Angela Troyer combined for 12 of those points during the Hawks' spurt.
A pair of Schlabach free throws gave the Hawks a 37-12 advantage at the break.
Hiland canned 14 of 23 field goals in the opening half, while knocking down all six of its free throw attempts (11 of 11 for the game).
"I thought last year I kind of cheated our girls, in the fact that when we got big leads in games we didn't stick to what we do best, which is to pressure teams and score quickly," Schlabach said. "This year, we've added more pieces and we've built depth and those girls are playing for minutes, too. We don't have any problem keeping our girls motivated, because they know if they don't perform and get after it there's going to be someone else that's wanting to get on the floor.
"So far we've been a very unselfish group and I don't see that changing."
In the third period, things went from bad to worse for West Holmes as the visitors failed to convert a field goal attempt, getting only three free throws, two coming from Sammie Hall. The Knights were just 4 of 28 from the field through the game's first three quarters, and 6 of 43 for the evening.
"Tonight was a lesson for our team, a very difficult one," West Holmes coach Lisa Ogi said. "We missed some point-blank shots in the opening quarter, then Hiland's pressure hurt us, and that had a great deal to do with them being a very good team.
"But, after that, we started rushing things, and we just don't have many kids who have really been in this kind of situation," Ogi added. "I think we'll keep developing, but right now we're a very mediocre team. I think this one of those games where you chalk it up as not being as bad as the score indicated, just as you're not as good as you think when you're playing really well. We didn't have one girl play well in any area of the game tonight."
After Hiland opened a 58-15 early in the fourth period, West Holmes' Taylor Yerian connected on the Knights' first field goal of the second half with 5:41 left to cut the margin to 58-17.
The Hawks, however, ran off 19 straight points by canning 8 of 9 shot attempts, including four of their eight 3-pointers on the night to build the largest lead of the game at 77-17.
Hiland finished the night 29 of 51 from the floor (57 percent), and 8 of 18 on 3's.
"I really think that all the work and time we put spent in June and July is making all the difference right now," Schlabach said. "Our girls have developed some very good chemistry, but we're also staying humble, too. We've got a long season ahead of us and we have to keep working to get better. But our girls right now are playing together and with a lot of confidence."