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Stutzman, Hiland shoot down Frontier's threat

Daily Record Sports Writer

GNADENHUTTEN -- Midway through the third quarter, the Frontier girls basketball team looked poised to upset Hiland.

They held the Hawks to 0-of-7 shooting during that span and cut Hiland's lead to seven.

But the Hawks showed why they're the defending Div. IV state champions and rolled in the game's final 12 minutes to pick up a 53-31 win over the Cougars to advance to the Indian Valley district title game.

"We were there for awhile," Frontier coach Eric Rinard said.

"We knew they were going to put pressure on us for four quarters -- or however long they wanted."

Thanks to the icy shooting to start the second half, Hiland had its 14-point halftime lead whittled to 29-22 when coach Dave Schlabach called a timeout with four minutes left in the third.

After that it was all Hiland.

The Hawks traded baskets with Frontier but got a free throw from Layla Miller to start the ball rolling.

Guard Jena Stutzman kicked the ball from there, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the next two minutes to push the Hiland advantage to 14.

that provided Stutzman with six of her game-high 26 points on the night as the sophomore went on to shoot 4-of-10 from downtown.

The pair of big treys came after she missed her first three from downtown to start the third quarter.

"She'll (normally) hit 5-of-10," said Schlabach jokingly.  "So if she missed five, I like to assume the next five will go in."

Frontier guard Heather Gump responded with a trey with 16 seconds left, but it was the last time the Cougars would be close as the Hawks started the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach.

"Our girls coming off the bench played hard," Rinard said.  "But their depth -- they're a little deeper than we are."

Despite their depth, Hiland didn't receive scoring from a lot of players.

Other than Stutzman, wing Lindsay Stuckey was the only Hawk to score in double figures.

The concentrated scoring effort was one of the few areas Schlabach was displeased with.

Stuckey poured in 13 in the game's first 10:10, but was silenced from there on out.

She dominated in the early going, prompting Rinard to respond by putting a box and one on her.

"Lindsay had a heck of a first half," Schlabach said.  "She didn't score the rest of the game, but that's fine with her."

It opened up the arc for Stutzman to bomb away.

The win was the first tournament game Hiland has played that was reasonably close in the first half.  It's a trend that will no doubt continue.

"It's not going to get any easier the rest of the way," Schlabach said.  "It's going to get tougher.  Once you get to district you start to see more talent."

And while Hiland no doubt has the talent, it's getting used to the tournament atmosphere that concerns Schlabach.

"This group needs every tournament game possible in order to get comfortable," he said.  "But at the same time, you have to win.  So it's kind of a double-edged sword."

Courtesy The Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio

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