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COLUMBUS -- Jessica Troyer is Hiland's pest. It's a role she takes on with great pride.
Defense has always been Troyer's game. The 5-foot-6 senior isn't one of the Hawks' main scoring options like Kennedy Schlabach, Morgan McMillen and Angela Troyer, but that's just fine with her.
Troyer has become one of the most infuriating defensive players in the state, with shutting down the other teams' top player her only focus.
In Thursday's semifinal victory over Ottoville, Troyer slowed the Lady Green's speedy All-Ohio point guard Brooke Mangas to a crawl, as Mangas managed to score just two points while committing a season-high six turnovers. In Saturday's 61-41 title game win over Waterford, Troyer answered the challenge of guarding the Panthers' 5-10 All-Ohioan Megan Ball. Ball struggled to score just nine points, four shy of her season average on the biggest of stages.
"I don't even like to shoot the ball," Troyer said. "Scoring points isn't the thing I want to do, because we have plenty of girls who can do that. I love playing defense, and I usually get the other teams' best player, or at least their guard. Not often does a 5-6 girl like myself guard a 5-10 girl (Waterford's Ball) like I did today but it's a challenge I like."
On Saturday, Troyer got her chance to put the ball in the hoop, too.
Troyer's six first-half points were instrumental in Hiland's second-quarter run that vaulted them into a double-digit lead at 27-16. Her four consecutive points in closing the half after the Panthers trimmed the margin to 27-21 were like daggers. The Hawks then opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run that put the game out of reach.
"I thought Jessica played her best game of the season," Hiland coach Dave Schlabach said. "She scored nine points for us, and those six in the opening half were big when they were making a run. Jessica is a very skilled player, but she loves the role she provides for us."
Troyer isn't sure what the future holds for her after graduation, but the memories she will take from yesterday's state championship game will last a lifetime.
"I'm just going to enjoy our win today, and just relax the rest of the year," Troyer said. "Winning the championship today was like a dream come true, because we're all best friends on our team. It's pretty special to end it in that way."
A pest until the end, sure. But also, now, a state champion, too.