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MILLERSBURG -- The annual Battle of Holmes County was a near-draw in the first half, then the third-quarter blues got to West Holmes again.
Of course, visiting Hiland had a lot to do with that, as the Hawks broke open a close game after halftime and rolled to a 64-44 victory Tuesday night in Millersburg.
Hiland (10-2) got a 3-pointer from Andy Miller that pushed the Hawks in front 28-22 at halftime, then started the third quarter with a 14-2 run to pull away and keep the Knights winless on the season.
"We tried to to emphasize at halftime that third quarter and how important it is, and we came out flat," said West Holmes coach Keith Troyer after his team fell to 0-12. "I'm not sure what it's going to take to have a good third quarter ... we just need to figure out a way to come out with energy.
"We have to play an almost perfect game to win, and we played well for almost a half, then I thought we took some bad shots, had a few key turnovers, unforced turnovers. We can't do that and expect to win."
In the third period, the Hawks forced a Knight miscue, converted it into a Andy Miller layup, and they were off and running.
After WH freshman Chance Wells hit a runner to make it 30-24, Kobe Troyer, whose 16-point first half included four 3-pointers, drilled No. 5 for a nine-point Hiland lead.
Turner Horn's basket and a 3 from Scott Troyer made it 38-24, and on Hiland's next possession, Horn scored while being fouled, missed the foul shot, but the Hawks got the rebound and Horn would eventually score again, a four-point trip which put Hiland up 18. The Hawks would push their advantage to as many as 26 (62-36) in the fourth quarter.
"We focused a lot better at the defensive end," said Hiland coach Mark Schlabach about the pivotal third period, when his team outscored the Knights 23-12. "We got a lot of stops, consecutive stops, in the second half.
"West Holmes, you can't look at their record, that's not the kind of team they are. They're a lot better than their record shows. They've got good guards and I think they showed that in the first half. We had a lot of trouble guarding them. We maybe wore them down a little in the third quarter. I thought, that third quarter, we played pretty well."
The opening eight minutes was a shootout between Kobe Troyer and West Holmes guard Blaine Hager. Troyer scored all 10 of Hiland's points, while Hager tallied his team's first eight, then went backdoor for a layup just before the buzzer that gave the hosts a 13-10 lead.
Troyer hit back-to-back 3s against the West Holmes 1-2-2 zone, the second giving Hiland the lead for good at 20-19 with 4:51 remaining in the half. The 6-foot junior, who scored just two points in the Hawks' 50-45 loss last Friday to Inter-Valley Conference rival Garaway, missed his first 3 Tuesday, then connected on his next four and finished his 19-point effort 5 of 7 from long distance.
"I think our guys have done the best job in years of finding the hot shooter. Once he hit a couple, we were really trying to find him," Schlabach said. "He's been in the gym ever since Friday taking a lot of shots, because I know he was disappointed in the way he shot last Friday.
"I just told our guys, confidence offensively is a mental thing and I was a little worried how we were going to come out," Schlabach added. "I thought we played very confidently offensively."
Hiland was 14 of 27 from the field in the second half to finish at 50 percent on the night (23 of 46). Horn, after a quiet four-point first half, scored 10 in the second half to end with 14 points and four rebounds, tying Kobe Troyer for the team lead in rebounds as the hawks had a 32-18 advantage on the boards.
Hager, a 5-8 senior guard, matched Troyer's 5 3-pointers and 19 points, and he also led the Knights with four rebounds. West Holmes committed 16 turnovers to Hiland's 11 and finished 15 of 42 from the field.
The key for West Holmes to break into the win column is simple -- put two good halves together. In their most recent outing against Ashland, the Knights led 38-32 at halftime, then were outscored 34-16 in the second half of a 66-54 defeat.
"Last week when we played Ashland we played a real solid first half, then in the second half we played OK but I think we played more not to lose instead of to win, we kind of lost that aggressiveness offensively," Coach Troyer said. "They keep working hard and eventually it will pay off. They practice hard every day and if they keep their attitudes right, it will pay off."