By MICHAEL BURWELL
COLUMBUS — Kennedy Schlabach’s shot that every player dreams of crushed Ottoville’s dream of playing in a state title.
Schlabach, a 5-foot-6 guard for Berlin Hiland, drained a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer off a pass from Morgan McMillen as the Hawks knocked off the Big Green 44-41 in a Division IV state semifinal at Value City Arena on Thursday.
“I knew there wasn’t a lot of time left, but I honestly thought Morgan was going to shoot the ball. Once it got to me, I just let that thing fly,” Schlabach said. “I had no other choice. Every kid dreams of that shot and just hitting it was unbelievable.”
Berlin Hiland (28-1), the No. 1-ranked team in the final Division IV Associated Press poll, advanced to take on Waterford at 2 p.m. Saturday in the state final. Waterford edged Jackson Center 37-35 on Hayley Huff’s buzzer-beating drive to the basket.
Ottoville, ranked No. 7 and making its first state tournament appearance since 2013, finished the season 24-4.
“I made a statement in 2013 that I had some good young kids coming up and don’t be surprised if we’ll be back here,” Ottoville coach Dave Kleman said. “They fulfilled that prophecy and don’t count us out for next year and the year after because we got some good young kids coming.”
Ottoville saw its 32-22 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter disappear as Berlin Hiland went on a 10-0 run over the next four minutes. Schlabach had five of her 15 points during the run.
Berlin Hiland built a 39-36 lead after Angela Troyer, the Division IV player of the year, hit a pair of free throws.
But the Big Green stayed in it with the help of three missed 1-and-1 free throw opportunities from the Hawks.
Bridget Landin, a first-team all-Ohio selection for Ottoville, made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to tie the game at 41. Her second and third free throw tied it at 39, and after Troyer’s jumper with 35 seconds left gave the Hawks the lead, she drained two more with 7.8 seconds left.
“I just knew I had to make them to stay in the game,” Landin said.
That’s when Schlabach fired her game winner.
McMillen drove the length of the court before finding a wide-open Schlabach in the corner from well beyond the 3-point arc.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to be long,” Schlabach said with a laugh. “But when that thing went in, it was just crazy.”
“I don’t know how far behind the 3-point line but it was a deep 3,” Kleman said. “We needed to have somebody in her face, we were supposed to have somebody in her face and we weren’t there. She took advantage of it.”
Troyer scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the final 8:54. She had a 3-point play with 3:38 left to give the Hawks a 37-36 lead, and after an Ottoville turnover, she hit a pair of free throws.
Turnovers played a key role throughout the game. But in the second half, it worked in Berlin Hiland’s favor.
After both teams committed 11 turnovers in the first half, Ottoville had 11 in the second half while Berlin Hiland had just two (both in the third quarter).
“The one that jumps out is turnovers for us. We normally don’t have that many turnovers,” Kleman said. “They had 13, we had 22. You can’t give up that differential in the possessions against a good team and expect to overcome it.”
Hiland had just three players score, as McMillen added 11 points.
The Big Green, meanwhile, had all eight players who played score.
Landin, a 6-0 junior, led the Big Green with 15 points (11 in the second half), 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals. C.J. Kemper had five of her seven points in the first half, Amber Miller added six points off the bench and Kasey Knippen grabbed three rebounds off the bench as well.
“They execute so well and what a challenge,” said Berlin Hiland coach Dave Schlabach, Kennedy’s dad. “Coach Kleman, they’re very, very smart. They’re very well-coached, they put the ball in the right people’s hands at the right place.”
The Big Green led 10-7 after the first quarter and 21-18 at halftime. But the Hawks closed the half on a 4-0 run to keep the game close.
Ottoville had several chances late in the half for press-breaking baskets, but couldn’t capitalize. The Big Green didn’t score in the final 3:01 of the half.
“We just didn’t execute enough offensively to win the game,” Kleman said. “We played good enough defense, we held them 40 points under their scoring average, so our defense was good enough to win the game. Our offense was not good enough tonight.”
The Big Green shot 46 percent (15 of 33) from the floor, but just 30 percent (3 of 10) from 3-point range. Ottoville was 8 of 11 from the free throw line, with Landin going 7 of 8.
McMillen added four rebounds, Kennedy Schlabach four assists and Troyer four steals for the Hawks, who shot 37 percent (14 of 38) from the floor and 69 percent (11 of 16) from the free-throw line.
Kemper 3-9 1-3 7, Landin 4-8 7-8 15, Mangas 1-2 0-0 2, Honigford 1-4 0-0 3, Thorbahn 1-3 0-0 2, Knodell 1-2 0-0 3, Miller 3-4 0-0 6, Knippen 1-1 0-0 3. TOTALS: 15-33 8-11 41.
BERLIN HILAND (28-1)
Weaver 0-1 0-1 0, Schlabach 5-10 2-4 15, McMillen 3-9 3-5 11, J. Troyer 0-1 0-0 0, A. Troyer 6-13 6-6 18, Keim 0-3 0-0 0, Fowler 0-0 0-0 0, Hostetler 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 14-38 11-16 “” 44.
Ottoville 10 11 11 9 — 41
Berlin Hiland 7 11 9 17 — 44
3-POINT GOALS: Ottoville 3-10 (Kemper 0-2, Landin 0-1, Mangas 0-1, Honigford 1-3, Thorbahn 0-1, Knodell 1-1, Knippen 1-1); Berlin Hiland 5-17 (Schlabach 3-7, McMillen 2-5, A. Troyer 0-2, Keim 0-3).
REBOUNDS: Ottoville 27 (Landin 10, Knippen 6); Berlin Hiland 19 (McMillen 4).
TURNOVERS: Ottoville 22, Berlin Hiland 13.
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