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SUGARCREEK -- Moments after watching his 15-foot game-winning jumper swish through the net to break the hearts of the Hiland faithful 48-47 Friday, Feb. 17, Garaway big man, 6-foot-6 senior Joel Honigford, was quick to praise his teammates for putting him in a position to pull off the last-second win.
"I shoot those kinds of shots in practice just for fun. I never thought it would ever really happen," Honigford said. "Our hard work paid off. The team played well. I made the last shot, but everybody else made shots to put us in that position."
The loss, Hiland's second of the week, knocked the Hawks out of a first-place tie in the Inter-Valley Conference with a 12-3 record, 17-4 overall. Hiland wrapped up the regular season with a win against Newcomerstown on Tuesday.
In the fateful fourth quarter, it wasn't everybody else making shots for the Pirates; it was 5-9 junior sharpshooter Malik Shaffer.
He swished four 3-pointers in the fourth period for all 12 of his points, helping the hosts overcome a 37-29 deficit.
"He's a shooter," Garaway coach Terry Rowe said. "They did a great job of keeping him from getting his shots all night long."
Until the fourth quarter.
"We let Shaffer get loose for those threes, but other than that, defensively, we played great tonight," Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said. "There's not one thing we did tonight that we wouldn't do again. We executed offensively down the stretch, we gave up those threes, but a couple of them were highly contested. He just made nice shots."
Hiland senior Chris Kline had a couple of nice shots in the second quarter, when he scored 10 of his team-high 16 points. The swift senior stole the ball from Garaway guards on back-to-back possessions that led to layups and a seven-point Hiland lead (22-15) late in the first half. Hiland led 25-17 at the half.
In the third quarter, Kobe Troyer went deep while Scott Troyer and Andrew Miller took turns driving hard to the hole, along with Turner Horn, helping the Hawks maintain a 37-29 lead.
In the fourth quarter, two Shaffer 3s pulled the Pirates within three with 5:48 to play. Troyer extended the lead back to five for the Hawks, but Ben Mason, one of three Pirates to score in double figures with 12, answered.
A driving layup by Horn put Hiland up 44-39 with just over three minutes remaining, but Shaffer struck again at the 2:10 mark, pulling the Pirates within one at 44-43, and after Troyer split a pair of freebies at the other end, Shaffer hit his fourth trey to give Garaway a 47-46 lead with 1:30 remaining.
Horn capped off his night 14-point effort with a driving bucket to reclaim the lead for the Hawks with 1:01 left in the game.
The Pirates misfired on a triple try with 30 seconds remaining, but Kline was unable to connect on the front end of a one-and-one.
With the clock running down,Garaway senior Ty Hamsher, who paced the Pirates with 13 points, misfired and the Hawks got the rebound, but were called for traveling during the ensuing scuffle.
Garaway got one more chance with six seconds left.
Hamsher drove the baseline, but the ball got poked away to Honigford about 15 feet away from the bucket. The senior caught it, shot it and bedlam broke loose on the court.
"It's tough when you execute and play that hard but don't win the game," Schlabach said. "We have senior night on Tuesday, so I know our guys will be excited about that. Our focus from now will be on our tournament run. We haven't been out of districts in four years. We can bounce back from this."