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Ferry falls to Hiland in Div.-III

BYESVILLE — Sometimes the other team is simply better.

Such was the case Wednesday evening at Meadowbrook High School.

Martins Ferry, quite simply, knew it was up against more than a tall task when it took on Hiland, the state of Ohio’s top-ranked Division III team in a Division III Eastern District semifinal.

The Hawks wasted no time in asserting themselves, jumping to a 22-5 lead after one and cruising from there in a 69-26 victory, which included the majority of the second half being played under the OHSAA’s mandated mercy rule.

Obviously, the competitor in head coach Dave Reasbeck gave the Purple Riders a glimmer of hope, but the reality of the matter was that Hiland’s well-schooled, athletic, fast and talented squad was better in every spot.

“Nothing against us because we’re good, but (Hiland) is on a different level than us,” Reasbeck said. “Coach (Dave) Schlabach has five state championships (in his career) and he told me before the game that he thought this was his best-ever team. I already believed that, but hearing him say it, made me think, ‘uh, oh!'”

As they’ve done all season and throughout Dave Schlabach’s more than 25-year tenure as the head coach, the Hawks do it with a stifling man-to-man defense. They were relentless from the opening tip both in the full and halfcourt. They not only held the Purple Riders to 10, first-half points, but they forced them into 22 turnovers.

“They play hard, shoot, press and really do it all,” Reasbeck said. “If that team doesn’t win the state tournament, I’d love to see the team that beats them.”

Hiland led 42-10 at halftime and with about six minutes to go in the third extended its lead to more than 35, putting the mercy rule into effect.

Regardless of the outcome, Reasbeck, who was in his first season of his second tenure, had nothing but high praise for his squad, which finished 18-7, won the OVAC Class 4A title and its first sectional in more than four years.

“You want to end your season at the farthest you can possibly go, and this round was the farthest we could possibly go,” Reasbeck said. “Playing a team that’s probably going to go to the state final in a district after winning 18 games and two championships, how can I complain? It’s been a great year.”

Reasbeck’s team was led by its seniors, including Wednesday’s leading scorer, Madison Ging, who had 10. Senior Richella Spielvogel had an impressive campaign on the interior added seven.

Jaden Stalder, Shayla Schuster, Haleigh Boyer and Sidne Sidon round out the list of departing seniors.

“Basketball aside, these kids were great all season,” Reasbeck said. “They’re fun to be around, they take me screaming at them, they don’t cry to their mom and dad and it was just an outstanding group of kids.”

Hiland, which hit 10, 3-point goals, had nine players crack the scoring column. Junior Kyli Horn had 21 points off the bench to lead the Hawks. Classmate Zoe Miller, who is committed to Bowling Green, added 12.

The Hawks will vie for another district championship Saturday at 2 p.m. at New Philadelphia High School against Tusky Valley, which rallied from as many as 16 down to take down second-seeded Union Local.

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