Sweet Number Six! Hiland wins Division III state title with win over Ottawa-Glandorf


DAYTON — State title No. 6 was years in the making.

Hiland's five senior starters all played in the state semifinals in 2019 when they were sophomores. And they were all in tears on the bench when Africentric prevailed, with their opponents eventually going on to win the Division III state championship they wanted so badly.

A photo of that low moment still hangs in the girls locker room at the Perry Reese Jr. Community Center.

It's time to throw it away.

Hiland won its sixth state title in program history, completely shutting down Ottawa-Glandorf for a 45-25 win Saturday in the Division III state championship game.

"What a great way for this group to go out," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "They had the bull's-eye on their back. It was expected. We got everybody's best game. That's even harder in those years when you're expected to win it, to actually go do it. It took a lot of perseverance from our kids."

The dominant Hawks and that special senior class, with its 100-plus wins and plenty of district and regional titles to its name, got one more big win in the biggest game it ever played. The only tears cried on the Hiland bench were tears of joy.

Led by its signature defensive pressure that's frustrated so many teams over the decades, Hiland bottled up Ottawa-Glandorf for 32 minutes and did enough offensively to win the state title that they've been craving for so long.

All five of Hiland's starters — seniors Kyli Horn, Zoe Miller, Brynn Mullet, Kelsey Swihart and Morgan Yoder — have been four-year varsity players, and a state championship was always the only goal they truly cared about. That's how it goes in Hiland, with five championship banners — from 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2017 — staring at them every time they practice.

Now they've got one of those banners to call their own.

And Hiland's defense is the biggest reason why.

The Hawks pressured Ottawa-Glandorf in the full-court and put the clamps on in the half-court, not allowing the Titans many clean looks all day. At one point Ottawa-Glandorf didn't score for eight minutes spanning the second and third quarters.

"Between Morgan Yoder, Ashley Mullet and Kyli Horn — and sometimes Brynn — but those other three are as good of on-ball defenders as we've ever had," Schlabach said. "... Our kids did a phenomenal job of wearing people down."

Hiland's defense made life miserable for Ottawa-Glandorf senior point guard Kelsey Erford, limiting her to two points and forcing her into 12 turnovers. Erford still toughed it out through a back injury, especially as the game progressed.

"I put her right up there with anybody that's played for me for four years," Ottawa-Glandorf coach Troy Yant said of Erford.

However, even with the defense confounding Ottawa-Glandorf, forcing 28 turnovers, Hiland wasn't having much luck offensively. It started the game 3-for-20 from the field, barely clinging to a lead in the first half.

When the Hawks needed someone to make shots when nothing was falling, Brynn Mullet stepped up with some of the biggest shots of her career.

The sharpshooting guard hit three first-half 3s to give a sputtering Hawks offense life, helping them to a 20-11 halftime lead as Ottawa-Glandorf also struggled. Another 3 in the third quarter gave Hiland a 27-13 lead, putting the Titans in what seemed like an insurmountable hole considering the circumstances.

"Some nights aren't your night and you kind of have to accept that, but we've all put in our time and we've all worked really hard," Brynn Mullet said. "If shots aren't going in at one point, they will eventually. We trust that and trust that all our hard work is going to pay off and that we deserve to make those shots."

Mullet finished with a game-high 14 points.

Star forward Zoe Miller, after a tough start, really came through in the second half, scoring 10 points over the final two quarters as Hiland kept extending its lead. The two-time first-team All-Ohioan — and a virtual lock for another appearance on that list — finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds in her final high school game.

Yoder also had seven points and five steals in her finale as the Hawks led by double figures for almost the entire second half.

Along with the four-year finale for the five starters, the game was the final one of Schlabach's head coaching career. He confirmed his retirement after the game, putting the finishing touches on a 30-year run as Hawks coach that stacks up with almost any coach in the country.

"I still love every day," Schlabach said. "There's nothing I don't like about being a coach. My daughter Kennedy [Schlabach] is back there. I've missed some games of hers this year. She's a junior at Ohio Dominican — a great player there. I want to make sure I don't miss any of those games anymore. My son is maybe getting ready to enter another chapter of his life and I want to help him out. I want to stay involved in the program in some manner."

Since that low point in 2019, there haven't been many bumps in the road. Hiland has lost just twice over the past two seasons — both times in the regular season to other teams loaded with talent.

And there weren't many bumps Saturday, outside of the tough offensive start. Hiland accomplished what it's been talking about since winning its last state title in 2017.

"We talk about a state championship almost every day in our program," Schlabach said. "We think you have to talk about it in order to achieve it."

There's no need to talk about it anymore.

The Hawks are state champions once again.