Hot start earns Lady Hawks another trip to regionals with 59-24 win over Warriors


The Buckeye Trail Warriors came into their Div. III girls district final basketball game with Hiland on Saturday, March 2 with high hopes of pulling off a monumental upset. Less than four minutes into the game, those hopes were squashed as the state’s fourth-ranked Lady Hawks ran roughshod over the Warriors in a 59-24 blowout win.

Hiland used an aggressive and physical full-court press that paved the way to a stunning 17-2 lead in less than four minutes.

“I thought they did a nice job early on in trying to slow it down,” said Hiland head coach Dave Schlabach, who captured his 17th district title in 28 years and 14th in the past 16 seasons. “But I thought our kids were really focused in, and we were really patient defensively, especially for how aggressive we were playing. That created a lot of offense for us.”

Kendra Shetler scored four points, and Zoe Miller added five including the triple that gave Hiland the early 9-0 advantage. A steal led to Mo Yoder’s triple, and one stop later Brynn Mullet found Shetler on the block with a beautiful pass to make it 14-0.

Much of that focus came on shutting down Buckeye Trail’s powerhouse center Sam Canner, who Hiland held in check all game.

The Lady Hawks continued to press and push the issue, but Canner finally broke through for a score inside for the Warriors. Schlabach said stopping Canner began out front with his guards harassing the Warriors and dissuading anyone from getting the ball into Canner in the low post.

“I thought our guard play defensively was really good tonight,” Schlabach said.

Mullet’s four points including a 3-pointer gave Hiland an 18-5 first-quarter advantage, and things were going to get worse for Buckeye Trail.

Mullet hit a second trey to start the second quarter, and after Ashleigh Wheeler knocked down a jumper, the Lady Hawks went on a 10-0 run. In that span Hiland got an and-one from Kelsie Swihart, a steal and score from Krista Troyer, and five points from Yoder to push the Hiland lead to 31-7. By the time Aila Miller hit two free throws and Kyli Horn found her mark on a long three, Hiland held a monumental 36-9 lead.

“On a night when Zoe didn’t have to score a lot for us,” Schlabach said, “our guards were shooting the ball as well as we have all year, and that helped us.”

Yoder scored two points on a technical foul and three on a triple around a Horn baseline jumper, and the Lady Hawks were leading 43-13 at intermission. Hiland was lighting it up from downtown, but Buckeye Trail stayed in its zone, and Hiland made them pay dearly, led by Yoder, who drilled all four of her 3-point attempts.

“Buckeye Trail made that decision that they were going to stay in that two-three zone, and we were going to have to hit some shots,” Schlabach said. “I thought our kids handled that situation very well.”

Not long into the second half, Hiland set off the running clock by forging a 35-point lead. Mullet and Rylie Smith traded threes, but Yoder dropped in a trey, Aila Miller scored inside and Zoe Miller followed suit for a 53-16 lead.

Many of Hiland’s wide-open looks came courtesy of Zoe Miller, who continually found teammates open as the Warriors collapsed on the high-scoring sophomore all night.

“When you are used to scoring 15 or 20 points a night and you get limited looks, it’s easy to get frustrated, but Zoe was totally unselfish and did a great job of making good decisions. She is only going to be as good as her teammates are, and tonight she helped everyone play well,” Schlabach said.

Buckeye Trail never regained much ground, although it did cut the deficit to 29 before Shelby Miller and Abby Miller each connected from downtown late to put the finishing touches on another Hiland district title.

“They’ve got everybody back,” Schlabach said of the Warriors. “They are going to be a really nice team next year.”

However, this year Hiland was simply too talented and too deep for the Warriors to hang with, and Hiland imposed its will on the Warriors.

“It seems like we are getting deeper all the time,” Schlabach said. “That early lead was huge. We were patient, and we put pressure on them all night and forced them into some mistakes, and ultimately that proved to be the difference.”

In addition to Yoder’s 16 points, Mullet added 10, Zoe Miller scored seven, Shetler added six, Horn scored five and Aila Miller scored four. Shelby Miller, Abby Miller and Swihart also pitched in with three. Wheeler scored eight, and Canner added six to pace the Warriors.

Buckeye Trail bows out at 19-6 while Hiland moves on with a 24-2 mark.