DOVER -- Displaying depth, dominating defense and a balanced offensive attack with a dash of experience, the Hiland Hawks made quick work of Inter-Valley Conference foe Malvern for the third time this season, squashing the Hornets 80-41 in the Div. IV Eastern District championship game Saturday at Dover.
The win advances the Hawks (25-1) to the Massillon Regional Thursday against Cornerstone Christian at 6:15 p.m. Malvern bows out at 21-5.
After Malvern misfired on its first shot, a layup, and then turned it over on its next five trips down the floor, Hiland made the Hornets pay.
Junior Morgan McMillen popped a pair of jumpers from the elbow and added a driving layup for a 6-0 advantage and a Malvern timeout.
Another turnover and a three-point play by Angela Troyer put the Hawks ahead 9-0.
"It feels pretty good. We've all been pretty motivated since last year going down like we did (at the Massillon Regional), and it's pushed us the entire season," the Hiland senior said. "It's good to finally be here and have a chance to win that back."
A pair of free throws from Kelsi Hulit and a jumper by Tara Tucci cut the Hiland lead to 9-4, but that's as close as the Hornets would get the rest of the day as an inside score by Melissa Hostetler and a 3-pointer from Kennedy Schlabach pushed the lead to 12-4. Another Schlabch triple made it 15-4 and the rout was on.
Schlabach made a steal and scored a layup, stole the inbounds and stepped back and swished a 3-pointer and added another steal and feed to Jessica Troyer for the score to give Hiland a 22-4 lead late in the first quarter.
"That's where our depth pays off," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "Their legs go at the end of the quarter, passes get a little sloppy, and our girls play at another level."
Sara Keim and Jessica Troyer drilled long-range 3-pointers and Angela Troyer scored from the free throw line, as the Hawks put the pedal to the metal in the second quarter. McMillen and Jessica Troyer hit from in close and Keim swished another triple to beat the buzzer, sending Hiland into the break with a 45-17 lead.
Triples by Keim and McMillen extended the lead to 30 in the third quarter, 53-23, as the onslaught continued. A Schlabach 3-pointer gave the Hawks a 64-30 lead heading into the final frame.
"It's nice to know we don't have to drop 20 points a night to win a game," Angela Troyer said. "Some nights it's Morgan or Kennedy, and we have Sara coming off the bench and Jess, they all can score."
On Saturday, they all did.
Hiland finished with five players scoring in double figures, paced by McMillen's 18 points and eight rebounds. Schlabach scored 14, while Keim and Jessica Troyer each tallied 13. Angela Troyer chipped in with 10.
"We had good balance again. I love to see that," coach Schlabach said.
Hornets coach Doug Wackerly said he knew it would be tough to get past Hiland.
"We lost five games this year and three of them were to Hiland," he said. "They're No. 1 for a reason."
"We wanted to slow down the pace and make more passes. We didn't get that done," Wackerly added. "They want you to play chaotically. Their bench is a lot better than ours. That hurts us when we try to play with them."