10’ heads to the Wall of Fame as Hawks retire Schlabach’s jersey

By DAVE MAST

Kennedy Schlabach thought she was coming back to Hiland High School to play in a women’s collegiate preseason exhibition game.

Much to the surprise of the Ohio Dominican sophomore who starred for the Hiland Lady Hawks at point guard from 2015-18, it was a lot more than that.

Following ODU’s 87-57 exhibition victory over Keiser University of Florida, Hiland’s program held a surprise jersey-retirement ceremony for Schlabach, hanging her number 10 jersey on the wall with the other Hiland greats. That list includes All-Ohioans Erin Hostetler, Launa Hochstetler, Lindsey Stuckey, Jena Stutzman, Hilary Weaver and current Ohio Dominican University teammate Angela Troyer.

“It’s an honor to be grouped with those people,” Schlabach said of joining the exclusive group. “They put in tremendous hours of hard work to get where they were, and they were all incredible players. I think that the most gratifying thing is seeing all of the hard work I put in paying off.”

Schlabach’s hard work included perfecting her shooting form by taking countless shots. Asked how many shots she has taken in her life, Schlabach said she had no idea. However, her lead coach and father Dave Schlabach brought up an old saying that is very appropriate for his daughter, who may have made the biggest shot in program history when she drained a 3-pointer as time expired to give the Lady Hawks a thrilling state semifinal win over Ottoville, which set the stage for the program’s fifth and most recent title in 2017.

“We have a saying that goes, ‘Would you take a million shots to make one?’ And that is exactly what Kennedy has done in her career,” Dave Schlabach said. “We estimate that since the sixth grade on she has taken well over 1 million shots in her life.”

Coach Schlabach said he has coached 30 years, and if his one payback would be seeing his daughter hit that game-winning shot at Columbus, it would all be worth it.

That practice to perfect her lightning-quick release has helped her pave her way into the record book.

Following the game, her Hiland head coach and father Dave Schlabach spoke about her many accomplishments including several state records.

In the Hiland program, Schlabach’s 1,520 career points rank her third in school history behind Stutzman and Stuckey. Her 600 career assists rank third all-time; she ranks fourth in career steals.

Her 321 career 3-pointers rank her fifth in OHSAA history, and with close to 100,000 players having played high school basketball in Ohio over the past three decades since the state has kept records, Schlabach ranks number one in games played at 114 and career wins, which is 102.

“She’s an average athlete with not much size,” Dave Schlabach said of his daughter. “What can she do but control her effort, control her basketball IQ and do all of the little things that make yourself and your team better? I think she was able to evolve her game, and that is something all great players do, but her biggest asset is her competitiveness, which is a wonderful asset for a point guard to possess. She doesn’t like to lose anything, period.”

As a youth growing up around the Lady Hawks program, Kennedy Schlabach had a chance to witness some of the all-time greats like Weaver and Hochstetler, two astounding point guards. Her dad said she was like a sponge, soaking in everything she saw from them and others, like the sharpshooting Stutzman.

“She has watched it all and learned from some of the best,” Dave Schlabach said.

During the presentation Kennedy Schlabach was hugged and congratulated by both current and former teammates, the current crop of Lady Hawks players, and adoring fans who watched her play throughout her career.

“I had no idea,” Schlabach said following the ceremony. “Watching that video just brought all of the good times we had from high school, playing with my teammates, playing for my dad. You don’t really think about any of the losses; you just recall all of these great memories.”

Despite all of the records and titles, Schlabach said it isn’t the games that will stand the test of time in her memory, but rather the relationships she forged with the many other Lady Hawks, who like her poured themselves into the game.

“It’s really all about the people and the relationships I made over the years,” Schlabach said. “I love winning games and chasing state championships, but to me, the thing I will cherish the most is the relationships I made with my teammates.”