Waterford loses to No. 1 Berlin Hiland

Waterford head coach Jerry Close speaks with media following a 61-41 loss to Hiland in the Division IV girls basketball state championship game Saturday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus. Photo by Jordan Holland.

COLUMBUS — Berlin Hiland lived up to its No. 1 ranking in Ohio Division IV.

The Hawks claimed the school’s fifth girls state basketball crown with a 61-41 triumph over defending state champion Waterford High at Value City Arena Saturday.

Hiland (29-1) and No. 4 Waterford (25-4) were facing each other for the first time ever on the hardwood.

“Today, we got punched in the mouth a little bit,” said Waterford head coach Jerry Close, whose Wildats finished with 19 turnovers. “But we knew that was coming. We’ve not faced pressure like that all year, and it’s hard to prepare for. We probably lost our composure a little bit.

“This game should be a very valuable learning tool for them to understand what it takes to get yourself ready for this kind of competition. I hope we learned from it.”

All-stater Alli Kern led the Wildcats with a double-double, 17 points and 10 rebounds.

“This experience, coming here every year, it’s so exciting,” Kern said. “That excitement always wants us to come back every single year, work as hard as we can and get better to get back to here.”

WHS all-stater Megan Ball added nine points, grabbed 10 boards and dished out seven assists.

“These two (Ball and Kern) are drawing the best defenders,” Close said. “And essentially, we’ve got to continue to get more production from the other three or five players who are playing to make it easier on these two.”

Hiland was paced by all-staters Angela Troyer and Morgan McMillen, who tallied 20 and 17 points respectively. Jessica Troyer chipped in with nine markers, Tiffany Weaver eight nd all-stater Kennedy Schlabach dished out six assists.

“These kids made plays and shots for us,” said Hiland boss Dave Schlabach. “I’m very proud of our kids. They were committed to bringing a state championship back.”

Both schools got off to a slow start. After a Weaver bucket, Waterford took the lead on Ball’s putback and bonus freebie. But the Hawks regained the lead on Jessica Troyer’s stickback and Angela Troyer’s triple.

Kern’s three, though, cut it to one, 7-6, before McMillen’s deuce gave Hiland a 9-6 first-quarter lead.

In the second quarter, Angela Troyer had the hot hand, scoring eight points, as the Hawks stretched their lead to 31-21 by halftime.

“I thought we played a real good first quarter,” Close said. “Then we got in a little bit of hurry and in a running game with them in the second.

“There were probably three different occasions in that game where we let things get a little bit out of control and against a team like that, you can’t recover. Their ability to do to us what we have the ability to do to other teams is the difference.”

Hiland scored 11 unanswered points to start the third quarter, and its lead bulged to 42-21 at the 4:30 mark. At the end of three, the Hawks owned a 49-30 advantage.

Hiland maintained a double-digit lead the entire fourth quarter, and won the game and title going away.

“I felt like we were in good control most of the time,” Schlabach said. “Waterford made us uncomfortable with their zone. But once we got them to play man, we were able to run our stuff and do our thing.

“Give Waterford a lot of credit. They’re been here three years in a row.”

Close said that he was “very proud of my kids.”

“These kids have worked hard to get themselves here,” the Waterford coach said. “Everyone knows who we are now.”