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Hiland has it all working in rout of EC

Daily Record Sports Writer

MASSILLON -- Perhaps no 30 seconds defined Thursday's Div. IV regional semifinal between Hiland and East Canton better than the time at the end of the first half.

With the clock winding down, Hiland got a rebound and went out on a fast break. Kristi Yoder missed a 3-pointer, but the ball fell to Karli Mast for a buzzer-beating layup to send Hiland to halftime with a 39-20 lead. The Hawks responded by sprinting to the locker room in celebration. The Wizards were barely off their bench by the time the last Hawk left the gym.

In that moment and the rest of the night, Hiland was deeper, quicker and more decisive than sixth-ranked East Canton. The result was a surprisingly dominant 69-44 Hiland win at Perry High School. The Hawks now play Bedford St. Peter Chanel, a 64-27 winner over McDonald in the night's first game, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Perry for a trip to the Final Four.

"Anytime you can do something like that, it's big," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "It gives you momentum and you don't let them get the idea they're going to get back into it."

The last part, not giving credence to the theory the Wizards (23-2) would rally, was taken care of pretty early.

East Canton won the opening tip and took a 2-0 lead and was within a point at 7-6 before a downpour of 3-pointers made the roof fall in. Jessica Stutzman started Hiland's tear by banking one in and Hilary Weaver converted a wide-open long ball on Hiland's next trip down the floor. Suddenly, a game most anticipated could be a classic had the look of anything but.

Hiland (24-1) forced the tempo and had six members of its 10-player rotation on the scoreboard and a 20-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. By then, it was going to take a major collapse for Hiland to lose. Instead, the Hawks kept the pressure on, forcing 23 turnovers and a 15-of-38 shooting night from East Canton.

"They just shelled us," East Canton coach Tom Davis said. "We didn't hit a shot early and I'm not sure they missed one. They put pressure on us that we hadn't seen all year. Most of the time, teams would press us, we'd break it and they'd fall out of it. They just stayed on us all night."

Defense might be the most under appreciated of Hiland's strengths and it was overshadowed once again by the sparkling offensive display. Jena Stutzman's 19 points -- she's now 12 shy of Lindsay Stuckey's school record of 1,627 points -- led Hiland. Eight more players scored for Hiland, none surprising East Canton more than the 15 points from Weaver.

Hiland put the game away early by hitting wide-open perimeter looks and kept the pressure on by continuing that trend. The Hawks hit nine 3-pointers and never let the Wizards closer than 11 points the rest of the night.

"We were able to hit 3-pointers off penetration and pitch stuff," Schlabach said. "We attack the basket and find open players on the perimeter. Most of our kids shoot 25,000 shots over the summer. It's a simple game. You do something enough you get good at it."

For his part, Davis was willing to give plenty of credit to Hiland and suggested he might be supportive of the Hawks' effort to end Africentric's run as the Div. IV state champion. Hiland and East Canton have met on big stages before and Davis left Thursday's festivities with a strong impression of this flock of Hawks.

"Tonight, they shot better than the team we played for the state title in 2006," Davis said. "With Africentric there, I don't know if they can win it this year, but I hope they do. We thought we knew a lot about them, but they were a lot stronger offensively than what we've seen."

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