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Hiland's rout of struggling Trojans no big surprise

Daily Record Sports Writer

UHRICHSVILLE -- No one expected a classic in the Div. IV sectional semifinal between Hiland and Newcomerstown.

There were no surprises

Second-ranked Hiland led 17-1 before the Trojans scored a basket and the game didn't get any more competitive. Hiland led 41-6 at halftime and cruised home with an 80-14 win at Claymont High School. The Hawks will play the Malvern-Toronto winner in the sectional final a week from today.

"We got some good things out of it," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "A lot of kids put the ball in the hole and a lot of kids contributed.

"We knew what we were going to get from this, but we still had some goals and we accomplished them. A lot of kids scored, we rebounded well and the game didn't get sloppy."

Hiland (20-1) blew it open from the start, opening with 3-pointers from Layla Miller, Jena Stutzman and Hilary Weaver to jump to a 9-1 lead. Six different Hawks scored in the first quarter, which Hiland used to build a 24-4 lead.

That lead swelled to 41-6 the same way. Hiland had contributions from all over the floor. Defensively, the Hawks forced 19 turnovers in the first half as Newcomerstown (1-20) struggled against Hiland's defensive pressure.

The plan to combat that pressure from Newcomerstown's angle was to force a slower pace with a zone defense. It slowed the game for a bit. Hiland hit six 3-pointers in the first half, forced the Trojans out of the zone and the pace didn't slow until Hiland wanted it to at the end of the game.

"We'd seen them on tape and live and knew we'd have to play man at some point," Newcomerstown coach Craig Hamilton said. "We wanted to zone them and slow it down because we just didn't want to get into a footrace with them. I just don't have the team speed they have. But, like I thought they would, Hiland made us play man with the way they shot the ball."

The prevailing opinion is that slowing Hiland down is the best way to have success, which means the Hawks could get sick of seeing zone defenses by the time the tournament gets serious.

Strasburg started the zone looks in Saturday's season finale and it will continue for a while. As with any team that shoots well from the perimeter, the risk is the gaps in the zone will allow open shots.

The open looks Thursday weren't just long balls. That will need to continue once Hiland hits the serious part of the post season.

"We're going to get a steady dose of zone as long as we're fortunate enough to keep winning," Schlabach said. "Layla has started hitting some big shots for us early and that's been big.

"We hit those first three at the start and I thought that got them out of the zone. Our kids are really shooting with confidence right now."

Confidence and consistency are the keys right now. Hiland got 25 points from Jena Stutzman, 12 from Weaver, 11 from Mykeila Mast and 10 from Miller. Defensively, the Hawks forced 31 turnovers and didn't let Newcomerstown reach double digits until late in the fourth quarter.

The confidence from the perimeter showed, as the shots kept going up and went in more often than not.

The consistency will come into play later, as Hiland hopes to get more games like this from up and down the roster.

"Our kids understand the importance of developing good habits and continuing to play well," Schlabach said.

"They understand the situation we're in. I think we get good leadership and that's how these kids understand so well."

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