Detweiler’s jumper sends Hawks back to regional final

Detweiler’s jumper sends Hawks back to regional final
Paul A Miller

Alex Yoder may have saved one of his best performances for when his team needed it most, churning out a double-double to propel Hiland to a 55-51 win over Federal Hocking in a game that wasn’t pretty, but the final result was, at least for the Hawks.


In a world where it’s win or go home, the Hiland Hawks continue to magically find the elixir that helps propel them along the tournament path in the Div. IV boys state basketball tournament.

Sometimes it’s just enough to simply survive, which is exactly what the Hiland Hawks did in their Athens regional semifinal contest against Federal Hocking at the Convocation Center on Tuesday, March 7.

In a game featuring lots of pressure, subpar ball-handling and plenty of lead changes, Sammy Detweiler’s short jumper in the lane with five seconds to play lifted the Hawks to a 55-51 win.

“Survived is an appropriate word,” Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach said. “The game was weird from the start. We didn’t get there as early as we wanted to, and we felt rushed to get ready and we were never really in sync. Plus, they did some things defensively that we hadn’t seen on film.”

Alex Yoder got things rolling for the Hawks early, dominating inside with six quick points that led to an 8-4 Hiland advantage. Andrew Airhart quickly sent the Lancers on a 7-0 run with five points, and after Sammy Detweiler’s two free throws, Airhart gave FH a 13-10 lead through one period.

That lead grew to seven when Airhart drove for two, the Hawks turned it over and Iden Miller dropped a jumper for a 17-10 lead.

The Hawks answered by reeling off a 10-0 run, highlighted by a pair of Nick Wigton 3-pointers.

Airhart would score three points to end the half and put the two teams deadlocked at 22 entering the half.

Phin Killy drove to give the Hawks a two-point lead to start the second half, and Habeger’s drive put Hiland up before the Pilots responded with a 7-0 run spurred by Iden Miller’s 3-pointer.

Back came the Hawks with an 8-0 spurt, Detweiler canning a pair of treys and Alex Miller feeding Connor Beachy with a long pass for a layup and a 36-34 Hiland lead.

Hiland pushed out to a 41-36 lead on Habeger’s two free throws, but a costly turnover with seconds left led to an and-one for Iden Miller that trimmed Hiland’s advantage to 41-39 heading into the final quarter.

Again, Hiland pushed the lead out on consecutive scores on a wild sequence of turnovers and missed shots that culminated in a Habeger lay-in, as well as Yoder’s score. Hiland then committed several costly turnovers, and the Pilots took advantage, with Scotty Balch leading the way to knotting the score at 45 with 4:17 to play.

Detweiler sliced through for a score, but after yet another Hiland turnover, Iden Miller’s long triple put the Pilots up 48-47 with 2:30 left.

The next 90 seconds saw both teams struggle to accomplish anything offensively, outside of Yoder’s put-back with 1:57 to play.

The score would remain there until Alex Miller found Yoder wide open under the bucket with a baseball pass that pushed Hiland’s lead to 53-49 with 37 seconds left to play.

The lead didn’t last long, with Airhart delivering a dart from deep to tie it at 51 with 17 seconds left.

The Hawks took a timeout with 13 seconds to play and set up Detweiler to work his magic. Detweiler took the inbound pass and drove the length of the floor, taking advantage of a nice screen at midcourt and working his way into the paint, where he hit a twisting seven-footer with 5.5 seconds left.

Much like their game versus River, the Hawks had to survive a possible 3-pointer that would send them to defeat, but unlike the River game, this one never transpired when Tariq Cottrill’s laser pass went through Airhart’s fingers and out of bounds with one second to play.

“I thought the game really came down to our defensive effort late,” Schlabach said. “We stopped them on five of their final six possessions, and that’s the reason we won the game.”

Wigton was fouled and calmly sank two free throws to ice the game and send Hiland to the regional finals for the seventh straight season.

Federal Hocking was led by Airhart with a game-high 17 points and eight rebounds while Iden Miller added 11 and Cottrill, his district’s Player of the Year who scored 25 points in the Pilots’ district final win, was held to just 10.

Hiland got 16 points from Detweiler, Yoder reeled off a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, Habeger scored 10 points and grabbed five boards, Wigton added 10 points, and Killy chipped in with four.

“The Convo is a different environment to play in,” Schlabach said. “A lot of this game was their ability to take us out of things we like to do, and those games are tough to play in. Plus, we had a bunch of kids going through a first-time experience at this level. It was a struggle, but we were able to find a way and survived when we didn’t play our best.”

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