Lady Hawks’ hope of finishing chase still alive


Hiland Lady Hawks head coach Dave Schlabach and his Lady Hawks basketball team were prepared for the worst-case scenario when they heard news concerning the Final Four basketball state tournament was being announced Friday, March 13.

What they heard was a modicum of hope for the Final Four actually being played out down the road.

With rumors swirling that the coronavirus would eliminate the playing of the Final Four in all divisions, word came down that the OHSAA would delay the outcome and wait for the three-week period with no school to end before moving forward.

Schlabach said the state actually sounded hopeful that the game could be completed, which was encouraging to a group of girls and the coaching staff who have poured themselves into a season that has seen them go 27-1 and earn the No. 1 ranking in Div. III.

Hiland has steamrolled every opponent on the way to the Final Four and was geared up for a showdown with Elyria Catholic and then possibly with nemesis Africentric, who dealt them a close loss in last year’s state semifinals.

“We were about 100 percent positive that we were going to get canceled today,” Schlabach said. “But we got an email (March 13) saying that the OHSAA’s intention is to not cancel the tournament. They would like to wait three weeks with the schools shut down statewide, and their intention would be to have state champions before the end of the school year. That is not a guarantee, but we definitely feel like we have a shot. With the way we all felt yesterday, we’ll take that.”

Schlabach said in discussing the possibility of losing a shot at a state title with his team, the mood was expectedly very somber. Schlabach said when people understand the hard work and effort these girls put in, it is easy to see why their disappointment was so vast.

When word came through that a chance remains for the games to be played, the mood changed dramatically.

“Any time you think you’ve lost something and you get a second shot at it, you’re ecstatic,” Schlabach said. “We went from total devastation to hope. It’s been an emotional couple of days.”

Now for the Final Four teams, it becomes a waiting game. Meanwhile teams are being asked not to meet together to practice, so the ability to stay sharp falls on the shoulders of individual players.

Schlabach said if the OHSAA does opt to push the games back three weeks or even longer, they will probably give teams one week to get back in gear together before moving forward.

While nobody wants this outcome, he believes his girls are mentally tough enough to work out on their own to stay sharp, which could eventually work in the Lady Hawks’ favor.

“All of these kids on every team are going to have to stay sharp and motivated on their own,” Schlabach said. “That doesn’t come easily for everybody. It comes natural for some kids, and I think our group is highly motivated and disciplined enough to do that. I think we’ve got a chance to separate ourselves with what we do on our own that other teams might not do.”

While they would all love to play, Schlabach said health issues are by far the most important aspect of life right now. He said being safe and smart about the virus comes first, but he knows his kids will be thinking about this opportunity until it arrives or until it disappears altogether.

“As of right now we at least have a shot, and that is a plus,” Schlabach said.

Schlabach said the state is asking coaches for input on what they feel would be good options, and Schlabach said they could conceivably get all of the games played in a matter of two days by having each of the semifinal games played at a neutral site on the same night and then either doing the same for each of the four finals or even bringing those four games together to be played on a second night.

Regardless of how it happens, he and his Lady Hawks just want the chance to play this thing out to see where it takes them.