Recovering Shetler leads Hawks to a huge road win over Tusky Valley

Recovering Shetler leads Hawks to a huge road win over Tusky Valley
Paul Miller

Hiland senior Chris Shetler has inspired his teammates by returning from a gruesome leg injury last season that nearly ruined his playing career. Instead, Shetler has returned through difficult rehabilitation to spur the Hawks to a fantastic start that included a huge upset win on the road over Tusky Valley.


When two evenly matched teams meet, the home floor often becomes the difference between victory and defeat. In recent years that truth was never more personified than playing a game at Tuscarawas Valley High School gymnasium.

A smaller floor with close walls and an ever-present screaming crowd, more often than not, the Trojans walk away a winner in their home games. However, in their Thursday, Dec. 23 contest, the Hawks came away a 53-47 winner in a gutsy effort any coach would be proud of.

Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach summed it up best. “It’s a tough place to play, and they are really good. They put a lot of pressure on you, and their trapping zone is really long. But we handled it quite well. Early on, we didn’t score, but we weren’t turning it over, and that was a good sign. I thought if we could just hang on somehow, we might get it done.”

He was correct, but it didn’t look that way early.

It looked like déjà vu at the outset when the Trojans bolted to an 18-11 lead through one quarter. If previous outcomes were any indication, TV was in for a win.

However, this night would be different, and give the Hawks credit because they didn’t quit. Things could have gone south in a hurry against a seasoned Trojans team, but seniors Grant Miller and Chris Shetler changed the flow of the game. Those two took charge and helped the Hawks dig into the deficit, drawing the Hawks to within 26-23 at the intermission.

The big question starting the second half became could the Hawks maintain that momentum.

The response was an emphatic yes.

The third quarter became critical in propelling Hiland to victory. A determined Shetler, who continues to come back from a horrific leg injury last season, continued to shine. His dynamic drives often resulted in buckets or passes leading to easy Hiland scores. Sophomore Sam Detweiler finally sprang to life with two treys and a jumper to help push Hiland to its first lead at 30-28.

However, this was Shetler’s game to show he was rounding into top form, and Schlabach was proud of his senior.

“I believe he is finally turning the corner,” Schlabach said. “I don’t think people know how hard he’s worked recovering from a compound broken leg.”

Schlabach said following the break that happened in the preseason last year, Shetler’s initial outlook to even play again was bleak, doctors surmising Shetler may never play again. Instead, he dug in, rehabbing and working his way back to begin this season on a hopeful note.

“Every night after practice he is determined, doing jumping and agility drills, lots of work behind the scenes. We thought last year Chris might be the heart and soul of our club,” Schlabach said.

Hiland took over, Caden Miller scoring inside and a Shetler steal and ensuing bucket making it 38-31. Tony Troyer’s drive and a Shetler put-back gave the Hawks more breathing room at 41-32 with five minutes to play. Adding to the offensive surge was a ferocious Hiland defensive effort that Schlabach’s crew turned up several notches.

“I thought Tony Yoder was outstanding on Logan Stoltzer,” Schlabach said of his senior defender who often draws the assignment of defending opponents’ top scorers. “(Stoltzer) is probably the best offensive player in our league. Tony made him work really hard, but the helping effort from the rest of the team played a big part too.”

The Trojans were down but not out. Frantically pressuring Hiland and trapping at every opportunity, the Trojans clawed their way back to within 45-42 at the 3:00 mark, and with the home-court advantage, it looked good for TV.

However, the Hawks responded with poise and confidence in what could have been a frustrating moment. Detweiler split a pair of free throws, but Shetler grabbed the miss on the second, keeping the ball in Hiland’s hands. The desperate Trojans started fouling Hiland, and Grant Miller, Dylan Weaver and Caden Miller paraded to the line to sink six-straight free throws to seal the hard-earned win.

The win put Hiland in control of the IVC South division, improving to 6-1, and TV fell to 6-3, having lost three contests in a row after winning six straight to start the year.

On Dec. 28 Hiland faced a most difficult task in tackling undefeated Lucas at the Reese Center. Lucas left Berlin with its first blemish, Hiland controlling the action late with a 12-0 run to end the game for a 51-44 victory.

Hiland overcame an 19-10 deficit in the second quarter, thanks to a pair of Caden Miller 3-pointers. Up by one at the half after an Alex Yoder put-back, the Hawks again fell behind before battling back to within 38-37 through three on the strength of consecutive scores from Detweiler, Shelter and Grant Miller.

In the final frame, the Hawks again fell behind 44-39 with 4:20 to play, but Lucas would not score again while the Hawks went to work on both ends of the floor. Hiland’s 12-0 run over the final-four minutes began with Caden Miller’s two free throws, and with three minutes to play, Detweiler drilled a triple to knot things at 44.

A steal led to Detweiler’s two free throws, and Hiland never looked back, stymieing Lucas on its offensive end. Shetler scored off a lob pass from Detweiler with 1:20 left, and while Hiland didn’t fair well from the charity stripe down the stretch, its defense proved to be the turning point in winning its seventh-straight game to improve to 7-1.

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