River gains respect in defeat to Hiland

NEW PHILADELPHIA – For the second consecutive season, state-ranked Hiland has ended River’s season. However, it wasn’t as easy this time around.

Thursday night at New Philadelphia High School, the Hawks (22-3) claimed a 46-36 victory over the Pilots (18-7) in a Division IV girls district basketball tournament semifinal.

“Last year they beat us by 33 points,” River head coach Rick Isaly said of a 60-27 beatdown. “This year it was only 10. I think we might’ve earned some respect this year.”

Had it not been for a chilly second quarter in which River went 5:05 without scoring, the outcome could’ve been different.

“I knew we hadn’t scored for a while,” Isaly said of the second-quarter drought. “We had some good looks, but we just couldn’t get the ball to fall.”

Trailing 13-6 at the end of one quarter, the Pilots scored two of the first three baskets to pull within 16-10, but that’s when the Monroe County quint went as cold as an early January morning.

By the time freshman Jensen Caretti scored at the 2:11 mark, Hiland had built a 28-12 advantage. The Hawks would lead 32-14 at the half as River had committed 13 of its 20 turnovers.

“We knew they (Hiland) would run 10-12 girls in and out of the lineup. I think we got a little tired and started making mistakes. We also got a little careless on defense and they beat us a couple of times pretty easily on inbounds plays,” Isaly admitted of the first half.

So, what did the veteran River coach tell his team at the half?

“I told them all I asked was for them to play hard, compete and earn some respect,” he said. “I think we did that.”

Hiland suddenly went cold from the floor in the third quarter, but River couldn’t take advantage. The Hawks would go 2-for-15 from the floor in scoring six points, but the Pilots were only able to muster seven while charting five turnovers.

“If we could’ve got any kind of offense in the third quarter, it might have been a different game going into the fourth quarter,” Isaly noted. “But we just couldn’t.”

River got within 12 at 33-21, late in the third, but a pair of Hiland field goals boosted the lead to 38-21 with eight minutes remaining.

The Hawks added to their margin and led 45-24 when the Pilots made one last charge.

Led by senior Cassidy McCullough, River went on a 12-0 run to pull to within 45-36, but that would be as close as it would get. McCullough netted half of her team-high 12 markers in the stretch.

“I thought we outplayed them in the second half, but we dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half,” Isaly added. “I’m very proud of the way we played.”

Caretti also reached double figures as she finished with 10 points and a like number of rebounds. McCullough snagged seven boards as the Pilots led 31-27 off the glass.

Regina Hochstetler had a game-high 17 points for the winners, including 12 in the first half when she knocked down three straight trifectas. Emily Yoder and Megan Beachy evenly divided 18 markers. Hochstetler also had a team-best seven rebounds.

River loses a quality group of seniors in McCullough, Emile Weaver, Laken Ramsay, Myla Smith, Hannah Jones and Leslie Young.

“Wins-wise, this is the most we’ve had in four consecutive years,” Isaly said. “This is a great group of kids and we have accomplished quite a bit during their time here. We’ve made it to the district tournament three straight years and we played in an OVAC championship game. You can’t ask for more from a group of girls.”

With the win, Hiland advances to the district finals on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans.

RIVER (36) – Lak. Ramsay 2-12 0-0 4; McCullough 5-8 2-3 12; Weaver 1-2 1-2 3; Bowers 2-3 3-4 7; Caretti 5-11 0-0 10; Lan. Ramsay 0-2 0-0 0; Williams 0-0 0-0 0; Young 0-0 0-0 ; Smith 0-0 0-0 0; Totals: 15-38 6-9. HILAND (46) – E. Yoder 4-6 0-0 9; Schlabach 0-7 0-0 0; Beachy 3-6 1-2 9; Hochstetler 6-11 1-1 17; Goings 3-7 0-0 6; Nickol 1-10 0-0 2; J. Shrock 0-3 0-0 0; Horn 0-5 0-0 0; Troyer 0-3 3-4 3; L. Yoder 0-0 0-0 0; M. Miller 0-1 0-0 0; E. Shrock 0-0 0-0 0; J. Miller 0-0 0-0 0; Totals: 17-59 5-7.

Three-Point Goals: River none; Hiland 7 (Hostetler 4, Beachy 2, E. Yoder).

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com