NEWCOMERSTOWN – The Berlin Hiland basketball teams are known around the state for their full-court pressure defense and ability to shoot the rock from distance.
On Tuesday the Hawks only connected on three 3-pointers and most of their defensive damage was done in the half court, but Hiland still opened the season with an 83-60 victory at Newcomerstown.
“This group is still learning how to use our defense to generate runs,” Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said. “We are a better half court defensive team than we are full-court. The big thing is that we came out of here with a win and had to battle for it.”
Gone from last year's state semi-final squad are the likes of Joel Gause, Kenny Miller and Dustin Kaufman.
This year the bulk of the scoring load will fall on the shoulders of seniors Clinton Yoder and Jon Weaver and both came through at Newcomerstown.
With the homestanding Trojans racing out to an 11-6 lead five minutes into the game it was Yoder who dropped in eight straight points and Weaver capped the 10-0 run to close the quarter making it 16-11 after one.
“We did some nice things tonight,” Newcomerstown coach Danny Weekley said. “Our inexperience showed at times and they are very solid and took advantage of it.”
Trojan sophomore Curtis Blind scored 10 points in the second quarter to keep the hosts in the game as Hiland went to the locker room with a 34-26 halftime edge.
The third quarter opened with Hiland going on one of its typical runs keyed by its defense.
Four straight Newcomerstown turnovers led to a 12-0 Hiland run and a 46-28 lead with five minutes left in the period.
Yoder had three steals during the run while Matthew Beachy and Casey Kaufman each dropped in four points.
To the young Trojans' credit they responded with a 13-2 run to get back into the game at the three minute mark trailing just 48-41.
A four-point play from Colten Hostetler squashed the run and propelled a 12-6 run for the Hawks to end the third with a 60-47 lead, a lead that never went below 11 the rest of the night.
Yoder was solid in all facets for Hiland on the night with a game-high 20 points, a team-high nine rebounds and also coming away with six steals. Weaver and Hostetler chipped in with 12 points a piece.
“Clinton and Jon have to score for us to be successful,” Schlabach said. “Another big key for us is keeping Beachy on the floor. All of their runs came with him on the bench in foul trouble.”
Beachy finished with 17 points and three rebounds. Nine of those markers came in the fourth quarter.
Blind paced the Trojans with 16 points and eight rebounds while Chase Addy added 14 points and five assists and J.C. Rine added 12 markers and five dimes.
“Curtis had a great night for a kid who hasn't played basketball before,” Weekley said. “I thought J.C. and Chase were very solid tonight. The one great thing about this group is they will keep working because they want to earn respect and they are all back again next year.”