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Hiland gets a big test
Garaway puts up good fight before falling

Daily Record Sports Writer

BERLIN -- Hiland put away its state championship rings and got out the brass knuckles Saturday night.

Inter-Valley Conference rival Garaway went toe-to-toe with the defending Div. IV champion Hawks, but despite three scoring droughts of three minutes or longer - including a six-minute stretch to open the fourth quarter - Hiland eventually delivered a 44-38 knockout for its 70th consecutive IVC victory.

"We're appreciative of the games we get when we play them," said Hiland coach Dave Schlabach, whose team has won 11 straight IVC championships and the last two Div. IV state titles. "You can count on low-scoring, knock-down, drag-out types of games. Games that make you better in the long run."

Jena Stutzman, a junior All-Ohio candidate, suffered through a rough shooting night (2-of-12 total, 1-of-8 on 3-pointers) but led Hiland in its season opener with nine points, six rebounds and three assists.

Her 3-pointer at the 6:21 mark of the third quarter, which was the Hawks' third straight made basket in a minute, gave Hiland its biggest lead at 28-17.

But Garaway, which handled Hiland's pressure well (11 turnovers) and made almost half of its shots from the floor (14-of-30), hung tough behind the play of post Kenzie Kaufman.

The 5-foot-10 sophomore southpaw scored seven of her game-high 13 points in a 10-minute stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters. Her powerful post scores at the 3:32 and 1:32 marks of the fourth trimmed Hiland's lead to four on both occasions. But, the Hawks made 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:24 to ice it.

Hiland finished 12-of-15 at the stripe and Garaway 6-of-16.

"We didn't make free throws, we missed some bunnies, we didn't do the job on the defensive boards and we got beat in transition," Garaway coach Scott Bardall said. "Don't get me wrong, we did enough good to be there - just not enough good to win.

"Two-time defending state champions don't hand it away. They make you earn it and we didn't do that."

Garaway, a Div. III State Final Four team last season, took more than five minutes to score its first points. The Pirates' All-Ohioan, junior Laura Bardall, only took one first-quarter shot. It was a trend that carried on throughout.

Bardall, a hyperglycemic who was hunched over with hands on knees trying to get air late in the opening quarter, was hounded by a contain and help defense. Bardall, who played 31 minutes in all, shot 3-of-12 from the floor en route to 10 points.

She did add five rebounds and five assists, but her two missed chippies in the first minute-and-a-half of the fourth quarter could've put a severe dent in Hiland's 35-28 lead.

Junior guard Erica Hershberger (nine points, five assists) gave the Pirates some help, but the Hawks' supporting cast is what made the biggest difference.

Senior wing Lydia Miller had eight points and five boards, sophomore Layla Miller added seven points and three rebounds, and sophomore Karli Mast had the game's biggest impact.

Mast didn't miss a shot, going 4-for-4 overall and 2-of-2 beyond the arc for a game-high 10 points. She was one of the Hawks' youngsters to see more than 10 minutes of playing time, as freshmen Hilary Weaver started at point guard and fellow ninth-grader Jessica Stutzman saw extended time. Both helped the Hawk reserves come up clutch as Lydia Miller and Jena Stutzman, the clear-cut leaders of Hiland's team, had a combined two points at halftime.

"It's a good start for us," Schlabach said. "Just a reminder, don't forget we were ugly at times last year. But we didn't play intimidated, we didn't play scared, everyone on the floor was looking to shoot the ball and make plays.

"It was just nice to see a different uniform after four weeks of practice," Schlabach added. "I know the girls were tired of beating each other up and I was tired of watching it."

Courtesy The Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio

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