- 1 of 3 Photos | View More Photos
DOVER -- The Tusky Valley Trojans were a team that mirrored the Hiland Hawks' style of play in their Div. III East District championship at Dover on Friday evening. The only difference was that Hiland had a few more players who could execute, led by senior Chris Kline who came off the bench to pump in 21 points in leading the Hawks to a 56-38 triumph over the Trojans.
The win advances Hiland (21-4) to the Athens Regional Wednesday at 7 p.m. against tonight's winner of the Oak Hill vs Southeastern game. Tusky Valley bows out at 10-15.
Kline's instant energy on both ends of the floor, rubbed off on his teammates. He wasn't into the game 10 seconds before his presence was felt with a forced turnover.
"He was everywhere tonight," Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said. "Steals, blocking shots, rebounds that's what you hope you get out of your seniors in a game like this.
"When I see three guys, Noah (Sommers) on the boards, Turner (Horn) scoring for us and defending, and Chris just giving it his all. Those three guys led us tonight."
Horn chipped in 21 points and nine rebounds and Sommers scored four and added eight boards.
"Being able to bring a player like Chris off the bench, when he comes into the game, the whole game changes," Schlabach said. "The tempo changes, the intensity changes. And he hasn't just accepted the role of coming off the bench; he's taken it and run with it to a new level."
After jumping out to a 12-4 lead early in the first quarter on 3-pointers from Kobe Troyer and Horn, the Hawks let the Trojans back in it behind a 3-pointer from Dylan Vaughn and four points from Ethan Love to close the first quarter trailing Hiland 14-11.
Kline's defense and Horn's offense ignited another Hiland run, as the Hawks shut the Trojans out through the first five-plus minutes of the second stanza in building a 25-11 lead as Horn scored nine of his 12 first-half points. He scored inside, on a triple and a pair of free throws. The Trojans scored the final four of the first half but trailed 25-15 at intermission.
Nursing a double-digit lead, the Hawks patiently shaved time off the clock, working more than a minute on a couple possessions before taking a shot. Twice, however, the Hawks came up empty, only to steal the ball back and get a pair of free throws from Andy Miller.
Matthew Salvo swished a triple to trim the Hiland lead to 11 at 38-27, but Horn nailed a long trey to beat the buzzer to send Hiland into the final frame up 41-27.
The Hawks secured the victory going 10 of 10 from the charity stripe down the stretch, including Kline's 9 for 9 effort.
"We're a very good free throw shooting team, and Chris is normally not one of our better shooters," Schlabach said. "That mental focus was there all game.
"You forget how hard it is to win this game, and how many things have to go right," Schlabach added. "You've got to be lucky, healthy and all those things have to come together. There were a lot of different reasons we were able to get it done. It was nice to get over that hump this year.
Even Cody Allen's blazing fastball couldn't save the day for the Tusky Valley Trojans against the Hawks. The senior -- who shares the same name as the Cleveland Indians closer -- chucked in a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. Vaughn paced the Trojans with 14 points.
"A lot of credit to these kids. They never quit. They made a fabulous run here in the tournament," Tusky Valley coach Steve Franks said.
"They've got some really good players, Kline defensively, they were all over the place. They moved the ball and Mark has them playing really well right now. I wish them well. They're a good team."