Sunday, March 19, 2006

More on the Bombers

So the Record Courier isn’t cutting it when it comes to reporting?  Big surprise there.  Here are two articles from the Wooster Daily Record, the closest newspaper to Berlin Hiland.

Half not good enough for Hiland

Daily Record Sports Writer

CANTON - The Hiland boys were the best team on the floor for one half of Friday’s Div. IV Canton Regional championship game against Windham.

It’s just too bad that it was the wrong half.

After two quarters of play, the Cinderella Hawks had gone blow-for-blow with the high-powered Bombers, and even held a slim 34-32 advantage going into the locker room.

But with only 16 minutes left to earn a trip to the Final Four, the Bombers turned it up a notch, outscoring the Hawks 23-14 in the third quarter before hanging on for a 77-69 victory.

“We just didn’t defend today,” said first-year Hiland coach Mark Schlabach, who just missed out on a third straight trip to Columbus after taking Loudonville to the state semis in each of the past two seasons. “We didn’t get stops when we needed them. That’s something we’ve done all year, but today we just didn’t get it done. Usually, we speed other people up, but today, they sped us up.”

The Bombers (22-3) came out flying in the second half, scoring on three of their first four possessions to grab a 49-46 lead.

After trading buckets with the Hawks (20-6) midway through the period, Windham’s Ian McGuire and Matt Heller scored on back-to-back possessions to kick-start an 8-2 run to close out the quarter with a 55-48 lead.

“I think the key to the game was at the half when we switched defenses,” said longtime Windham coach Marty Hill, who’s making his first trip to the state tournament since 1982. “We’d gone man-to-man in the first half and switched to a full-court matchup. We think we’ve got some pretty athletic guards. We got some steals and turned them into easy layups.”

The Bombers opened the fourth quarter with a big 3-pointer from Brett Apthorpe to push the lead to 10.

However, despite leading in the fourth, Hill knew that his team’s lead wasn’t safe against Hiland, which canned six 3-pointers in the first half.

And when Kenny Miller connected from the top of the arc with 3:53 left in the game to trim the lead to six, Hill called a timeout to regroup.

“We took the 3 away for most of the second half,” said Hill. “Hiland is very well coached and they do a great job in their zone offense. It’s really hard to get them out of their rhythm. I told our kids that we had four ideas of what we wanted to do, and by the end of the game, we were on idea No. 4.”

Apparently idea No. 4 worked, though, as Hill’s Bombers forced the Hawks into three turnovers in the final 2:47 to rebuild their lead to 12 points

Hawks’ leading scorer Joel Gause got hot late, scoring eight of his team-best 21 points in the final 1:50, but it wasn’t enough, as the Bombers hit six of their final 10 free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

“Give Windham credit, because I don’t want to take anything away from them,” said Schlabach. “But our guys know that we didn’t play our best game today, and you can’t not play your best and end up in Columbus.”

Behind Gause, the Hawks got 13 points from Clinton Yoder, while Phil Major finished with 10 points and four assists. Dustin Kaufman added eight points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

Windham was led by Heller’s 19 points and six assists, while McGuire (18 points), Apthorpe (17) and Phil Workman (10) also reached double figures in scoring.

Still, eight weeks ago, it’s doubtful many saw the Hawks even appearing in a regional tournament, let alone playing for a trip to Columbus.

“I think we got focused about Game 15 this year,” said Schlabach. “We knew we couldn’t win a league championship, but we wanted to judge the success of our program by how we do in the tournament. We tried to focus on the tournament, but we didn’t accomplish our goal of getting to Columbus. I do think that it set the tone for years to come, though.”
And number two…
Judge Hawks by way they finished
Daily Record Sports Writer

CANTON - At the beginning of the 2005-06 season, Hiland boys coach Mark Schlabach said to judge his team by what it would be at the end of the year, not the beginning.

The Hawks came to a fork in the road midway through the season.

They were coming off losses to Inter-Valley Conference rivals Garaway and Sandy Valley and were out of the league race.

But from that point on, the Hawks rolled.

They won 10 of their next 11 games, with the one loss coming to Triway (ranked fourth in final Div. II AP Poll) at the Pit.

“I thought we got focused around Game 15 this year,” Schlabach said.

That all culminated in a loss at Friday night’s Div. IV Canton Regional final.

The team obviously turned the right way when they met their fork in the road, but when they went up against Windham, the Bombers were just too much.

“We just didn’t get stops in the second half,” Schlabach said. “We flat out couldn’t stop them, they were scoring at will.”

HE’S NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT - That wasn’t the story in the first half.

The Hawks were able to shut down the scoring combination of Ian McGuire and Brett Apthorpe, holding the pair to nine points on 2-of-8 shooting.

What the Hawks didn’t expect was big-time scoring from Bombers’ point guard Matt Heller.

The 5-10 junior came into the contest averaging seven points and seven assists.

But he exploded in the first half against the Hawks with McGuire in foul trouble and Apthorpe ineffective.

“Matt Heller just kept us in the game,” Windham coach Marty Hill said. “He probably took more shots in the first half than he has in the entire tournament.”

McGuire and Apthorpe came back strong in the second half, though, finishing the game with a combined 35 points.

“We expected that from Apthorpe and McGuire,” Schlabach said. “But we weren’t expecting it from (Heller).”

LONG TIME COMING - It’s been 24 years, but Hill has finally made it back to the state semifinals.

In his 32 years at Windham, he’s coached his teams to 10 regional tournaments, but only making it to state in 1977 and 1982.

There have been some trying times in those 24 years, including a matchup with a loaded Columbus Worley team in the early nineties.

“They had five guys go on to play Div. I ball,” Hill said. “We went to scout them and their JV players were dunking.”

The past two seasons, his teams made it to Canton, bowing out in the regional semifinals both times.

But Hill and the Bombers had an X-factor on their side this time.

“I told the kids, sort of for confidence, that I’ve been to 10 regionals,” he said, “and that we’d only played in two regional finals and won both of them.”

ONE GAME SHORT - With the loss, the Hawks fell one game short of their first trip to Columbus since 2000.

While not many people at the beginning of the year saw them as a state-caliber team, they proved all doubters wrong, peaking at the right time and taking Windham to the limit before falling.

The team lost six seniors off their 2004-05 squad. Needless to say, they were short on talent.

But over the course of four months, they evolved from a team struggling for an identity into a talented - and now tournament-seasoned - team.

While Schlabach was surprised at his team’s success, he knew never to doubt his team.

“I don’t want to put limits on the players,” he said. “I don’t think the kids played above their talent level.

“About six or seven games ago, we started playing defense and rebounding better. We just didn’t do that tonight.”
By the way, Hiland’s girls basketball team has become back to back state champions, beating East Canton 59–54.

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