BY Jim Haynes
Times-Reporter sports writer
BERLIN If there ever were an early season measuring stick for a basketball team, Tuscarawas Central Catholic had it Tuesday night against perennial state powerhouse Hiland at the Perry Reese Center.
In the Saints’ season opener, they fell to the Hiland Hawks 56-42 in an Inter-Valley Conference battle.
Senior Todd Ropp led Hiland with 24 points, while sophomore Dennis Chupp added 13.
Junior Michael Teater led the Saints with 22 points, followed by fellow junior Mitchell Herron with 12.
The game was a big learning experience for Saints head coach Tyrone Miller’s squad.
“It’s Game 1 of the season,” Miller said. “We want to be playing our best ball come tournament time, and this was a good lesson for our kids. We will go back to work and keep improving.”
The two teams played a rugged first quarter, which saw a total of eight turnovers between the clubs.
The Hawks (2-0) raced out to a 7-0 lead thanks in part to their ball-hawking style of defense that forced the Saints into some early turnovers.
Central finally got on the board with 3 minutes left in the quarter cut the Hawks lead to 11-8 after the first quarter.
The second quarter was the turning point of the game as Hiland outscored Central 18-7, using an 11-2 run to start the quarter.
“The second quarter kind of got away from us,” Miller said. “We have a few kids that were playing their first varsity game and they played pretty timid in that second quarter. We just succumbed to their pressure and it hurt us.”
The Hawks forced five Central turnovers in the quarter, while the offense was on fire, taking advantage of the paint by shooting 8 of 12 from the field to open a commanding 29-15 lead into the half.
The Saints came out fighting in the third quarter as they amped up their defensive pressure and held the Hawks to just 4-of-10 shooting in the third period. Central pulled to within nine points with just under a minute to go in the quarter, but the Hawks put a halt to the threat by scoring the final points on a buzzer-beater to end the quarter.
The teams traded buckets to open the final frame, but Hiland’s inside game proved to be too much for the Saints as Ropp scored seven points and Chupp pitched in four in the fourth quarter.
The battle of the boards was nearly even as Central pulled down 18 boards and Hiland hauled in 17.
Reach Jim at 330-364-8425 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @JamesEricHaynes