Hiland makes big plays at big times to clinch state final berth with 47-40 win


DAYTON — With big-time, clutch performances from every angle, as if it had been there before, Hiland took down Cincinnati Purcell Marian 47-40 in a Division III state semifinal Thursday night at the University of Dayton Arena.

Now the Hawks (27-1) will play for a state championship at 2 p.m. Saturday against Ottawa-Glandorf (26-2), which knocked off Waynedale 46-36 in Thursday's early game.

Paced by Zoe Miller's 16-point, 5-rebound effort, combined with superb ball-handling by Morgan Yoder to withstand the Cavaliers' constant pressure, a timely 3-point shot by freshman Ashley Mullet and inside buckets by Miller and Kelsey Swihart, the Hawks fended off the toughest competition they have faced all season,

"If you're going to win a state championship, I feel you have to earn it, and I feel like Purcell Marian made us earn it," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "They were prepared. They did a really good job of taking us out of stuff. We had to make plays all night.

"It was probably the most physical game we've played in the guard spots. They're strong kids. It was a battle. We'd hit a big shot, and they'd answer. Zoe's foul trouble in the first half was something we weren't used to dealing with. But our bench was great. A lot of kids made a lot of plays."

One of the biggest plays was the freshman Mullet's 3-pointer with 2:02 to play, giving Hiland a 38-33 lead and some breathing room.

That came in handy 30 seconds later when Leah Smith answered with the Cavaliers' lone 3 of the game.

"Ashley has hit game-winning shots since she's been in fifth grade," Schlabach said. "It's happened so many times. She is so confident. She has even come along here in the last five, six games."

A feed from Miller to Swihart for an inside bunny put the Hawks back up 40-36 with 1:30 to play and, after a misfire from long range by Purcell Marian, Miller iced the game by converting a three-point play with 28 seconds left, giving Hiland an insurmountable 43-36 lead.

Yoder and Miller drilled free throws for the final points.

"Hiland is one of the most decorated teams in the state of Ohio, now playing for their sixth state championship," Purcell Marian coach Jamar Mosely said. "They've been here before, and it was pretty evident there in the fourth quarter, when they scored as many points in the fourth quarter as they did in the first half. They are well-disciplined and well-coached."

The Hawks withstood a 15-5 run by the Cavaliers that turned Hiland's 18-11 halftime lead into a 26-23 Purcell Marian advantage midway through the third quarter. McKenna Haugabook led that charge, slashing her way to three buckets and an and-one opportunity. She missed the free throw, but Jermyha Behanan cleaned up and stuck back the miss to cap the run.

"We were feeling pretty good at the half," Schlabach said. "Zoe hadn't played for 10 minutes, and I felt really good. Then all of a sudden, they get three straight possessions where they scored on us. That was huge for them. Then it was grind time.

"We've been in a lot of battles where we've been down, and had to make big plays and execute," the coach continued. "I'm glad we had the schedule we had."

Miller scored Hiland's first five points on a layup and three free throws, and the score was knotted at 5-5 late in the quarter before Brynn Mullet dropped in a 3-point bomb from the corner for an 8-5 lead at the end of one.

"I think we got off to a slow start offensively," Mosely said. "We picked it up in the second half, had a really good third quarter. I thought we did a really good job throughout the game guarding their actions."

Mullet's 3-pointer lifted her over the 1,000-point mark for her career.

Miller picked up her second foul late in the first quarter and spent the rest of the first half on the bench, so Kyli Horn and Morgan Yoder picked up the offensive slack. Horn scored on a layup and a 3-pointer around a Yoder three-point play and the Hawks led by seven at halftime.

"We had to guard all five players on the floor," Purcell Marian's Kara King said. "They could all five score."

Yoder and Horn finished with eight points apiece to go with Miller's 16. Ashley Mullet finished with five points, Swihart added four points and 10 rebounds, and Aila Miller and Brynn Mullet scored three points each. Miller also pulled down six boards.

"Our point guard play was phenomenal," Schlabach said. "Morgan Yoder handled the ball — 31 minutes of two kids on her all the time. She did a fantastic job.

Yoder said taking care of the ball and getting open shots for either herself or her teammates is her main job.

"We didn't know they'd throw that double at us the whole game." Yoder said. "It was a challenge trying to stay calm and not turning it over when there's two people running at you, and finding an open teammate."

"This is pretty exciting for all of us because we haven't play in a state championship game, yet. I think all of us seniors, and everybody else is ready for the game."

Haugabook and Jariah McCrory scored nine points apiece to lead the Cavaliers, who finished the season 21-4.

Schlabach commended the work of his seniors to help this team get to where it is, playing for the sixth state championship in school history.

"I'm very proud of this group," Schlabach said. "They're committed. They believe in themselves and they trust each other. They are right where they want to be now."

"We have a lot of kids who can make a lot of plays, and we needed every one of them tonight. We love these kids. They have given us everything they can possibly give us. We couldn't ask for more. To be here now, we talk about a state championship nearly every single day in our program. If you don't talk about it, you'll never get a shot at it. We've got a shot now."