WOOSTER — A quick start and a strong finish propelled Elyria past undefeated Berlin Hiland 59-51 in its first appearance at the 10th annual Steve Smith WQKT Holiday Hoops Classic at the College of Wooster.
Smith was a longtime coach at Orrville, winning two state titles along the way. Part of the proceeds from the event, which featured 12 teams, will go to the Smith Scholarship Fund.
Isaiah Walton scored the first 10 points for the Pioneers (5-1) as they hit six of their first eight shots in rolling to a 33-20 lead with 3:12 to play in the first half. But Hiland (7-1) closed the half on a 12-0 run to slice the lead to 33-32.
“We knew they played (Friday) night,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said of Hiland. “We’ve talked all year about getting off to a fast start. First quarter, we played really fast tempo, good passes. Isaiah got off to a really good start, and we played really good defense.
“Give them credit. They changed some defenses and we didn’t adjust well. We turned it over too much in the second quarter. Give our guys credit. That was a really good win against a very good team.”
“(Elyria) shot it very well early on,” Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said. “(Walton’s) a good player and good players — you can’t let them get going like that. We gave him some easy ones and put him on the foul line too many times.”
The Hawks, a D-IV school with a great basketball tradition, saw a 48-45 lead evaporate in the fourth quarter as Elyria hit 10 of 12 free throws to 0-of-4 by Hiland. The Pioneers outscored the Hawks 14-2 in the final 6:35.
Walton finished with 29 points for Elyria, cashing in on nine of 12 free throws.
“We came out with really good intensity,” Walton said. “They came back but we really did a good job with regrouping and doing what we needed to do to stay poised and get the win.”
Jarred Schultz scored 10 and led the rebounding with nine despite of sitting out chunks of the game in foul trouble. In fact, Schultz, AJ Johnson and Trenell Oliver all finished the game with four fouls, forcing Larrick to switch to a zone defense to protect the trio from fouling out.
“Hiland is a really good shooting team,” Walton said. “We’ve worked on our zone in practice. We really had to focus on being in good position and get on their shooters and contest it.”
The strategy worked to perfection as Hiland hit just one 3-pointer out of six attempts in the fourth quarter. The Hawks committed four costly turnovers and made just two field goals in the final quarter and were under 50 percent from the foul line for the night.
“You name it,” Schlabach said when asked what happened. “Up three with five minutes to go, we had some really good looks but didn’t make them. Missed free throws, missed a couple layups.”
“Second half, we battled a lot of adversity,” Larrick said. “Foul trouble, changing defenses, and the lineup we used in the fourth quarter hadn’t played together in practice or games at all. They did a good job keeping themselves calm.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria 59, Hiland 51
ELYRIA (59): Hunter Parsh 2-0-6, Isaiah Walton 9-9-29, Anthony Duckett 0-2-2, Jarred Schultz 3-4-10, AJ Johnson 0-0-0, Ronnie Smith 2-3-8, Trenell Oliver 2-0-4, Marquise Dalton 0-0-0, Chris Jamison 0-0-0. Totals 18-18-59.
BERLIN HILAND (51): Jordan Yoder 4-0-10, Eric Miller 3-1-8, Lucas Mast 2-0-5, Brennan Coil 3-0-6, Todd Ropp 5-5-16, Dennis Chupp 1-0-2, Brady Schlabach 0-0-0, Collin Blochlinger 1-1-4, Bruce Troyer 0-0-0. Totals 19-7-51.
Elyria 22 11 12 14 — 59
Berlin Hiland 11 21 14 5 — 51
Three-point goals: Elyria 5-16 (Parsh 2, Walton 2, Smith), Hiland 6-21 (Yoder 2, Miller, Mast, Ropp, Blochlinger). Field goals: Elyria 18-46 (39 percent), Hiland 19-46 (41 percent). Free throws: Elyria 18-23 (78 percent), Hiland 7-16 (44 percent). Rebounds: Elyria 31 (Schultz 9), Hiland 34 (Ropp 8). Turnovers: Elyria 15, Hiland 20. Fouls: Elyria 19, Hiland 18. Technical foul: Hiland bench. Fouled out: Miller.
Junior varsity: Elyria, 41-29