Hiland doesn't deliver down stretch

Daily Record Sports Writer

BERLIN — In a battle of a pair of reigning state runners-up, it was apparent how hard both teams were hit by graduation.

Walsh Jesuit (D-II runner-up) edged Hiland (D-IV) 35-32 in the finale of the 2011 Classic in the Country Challenge in a game that was anything but pretty.

"We've struggled with handling pressure. We don't have a true point guard," said Walsh Jesuit coach Pete Zaccari. "Our top seven girls from last year are gone. We're playing a bunch of girls that were JVs. We play a very tough schedule. We've lost five games so far by three points or less. We've struggled to perform down the stretch. It's nice to get a win. We certainly didn't play like we wanted to play, but a win is a win."

The Warriors improved to 3-9 with the victory.

Hiland suffered through an ugly first quarter, where the Hawks turned it over six times. Yet thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from McKenzie Miller, Hiland managed to lead 10-9 after the opening eight minutes.

A 3-pointer by freshman Regina Hochstetler gave the Hawks a 13-9 lead to start the second quarter, but by halftime, the Warriors had surged ahead 22-20.

A Kendra Schlabach jumper was the lone field goal the Hawks would make in the third quarter until Bria Coil scored inside on the final possession of the frame to trim the Walsh lead to 28-25 after three quarters.

A Hannah Stoneman stickback of a missed free throw gave Hiland a 31-30 advantage early in the fourth quarter, but the Warriors answered with a 3-pointer from Maddie Sheppard, the lone double-digit scorer in the game with 13, to regain the lead at 33-31 midway through the final frame.

Hiland managed a free throw from Meagan Hall to pull within one, but the Warriors scored as time expired for the game's final tally.

"Hiland is a great team and Dave (Schlabach) is a great coach. We try to emulate his program," Zaccari said. "We've scrimmaged them a lot over the years but never played them in a game. It was an honor to get to play them in this event.

"We needed a win. We were 2-9 and had a lot of close games. We needed a win to get some confidence," he added. "Yes, this game was ugly. It was brutal. We both made a lot of mistakes. But we persevered and hung in there. Hopefully we can take it from here and perform like we need to down the stretch."

Schlabach was disappointed with his team's execution at crunch time and many of the little things they were unable to accomplish throughout the game.

"With four minutes to go, we told them they had nine fouls. Every time we got the basketball, we wanted to get to the rim," Schlabach said. "Let's shoot free throws the rest of the game. We don't get there once.

"We turned it over. Our point guards struggled tonight. We didn't adjust to the game," he continued. "We had 26 turnovers tonight. And it wasn't like it was an Africentric-like press."

Miller led Hiland with nine points. Hochstetler added seven.