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BERLIN -- The visiting Bombers of Windham had too huge a hill to climb in the second half and came up short on their visit to Berlin Hiland High School in the second game of Thursday's First Federal Holiday Showcase.
Windham whittled a double-digit Hiland lead that reached 18 early in the third quarter down to five in the fourth quarter, but couldn't close the deal, falling for the first time this season 67-55.
Hiland, the two-time defending Division IV state champion, turned up the intensity in the third quarter and dropped a couple 3-pointers on the Bombers to open up a 50-32 lead. Eric Miller connected from long range, Collin Blochlinger hit his second triple of the game and Todd Ropp swished a long one as Hiland built its biggest lead.
But Windham only trailed by 10, 50-40, at the end of the third quarter, as the Bombers got free throws and a layup from Jared Taylor (11 points) to close out the quarter.
Hiland left the door open in the fourth quarter, making bad decisions on the offensive end and sending the Bombers to the foul line at the other end.
Jonah Konzen scored inside and Cameron Pozsgai stroked a jumper midway through the final frame to pull the Bombers within seven.
Matt Knight, who along with Parker Rickey led Windham in scoring with 14 points apiece, buried a pair of free throws to cut Hiland's lead to five (54-49) with 3:57 remaining in the game.
Ropp, who led all scorers with 27 points to go with nine rebounds, answered with a stickback. A turnover followed, and Jordan Yoder connected on a pair of free throws to extend the lead back to nine at the three-minute mark.
Hiland's Lucas Mast made a steal at the foul line and went coast-to-coast for a layup to make it 60-49, and the Bombers never recovered.
"We got out-rebounded in the second quarter. We missed layups, we missed free throws," said Windham coach Marty Hill. "When you're playing a good team, you can't have that many mistakes. The problem with playing them, they get the ball off a missed shot, they get the long rebound, or a loose ball, then they convert at the other end and pretty soon, you're down double-digits, which happened to us.
"I thought our kids played a much better second half," Hill continued. "We knew this game would be a test for us. they have a huge following here in this environment. They have a great tradition. I love the way their kids play. I loved the way my kids played in the second half. We played hard. We missed some easy shots we usually make. These kids never quit. We've got good senior leadership."
After a Knight layup gave Windham a 19-18 advantage early in the second quarter, Hiland went on an 11-0 run to take a 29-19 lead. The Bombers turned the ball over three times and misfired on three shots during that stretch, coming up empty on six straight possessions.
Hiland had two different trips down the floor where the Hawks had four and five shots, helping create a huge rebounding disparity in the first half (23-8).
The Hawks took a 31-23 lead into the locker room at the half.
The Bombers started out like a house afire, hitting all four 3-point attempts they tried in the first quarter, but still came up on the short end of an 18-17 score after the first eight minutes of action.
Parker Rickey dropped a pair of 3-point bombs after Pozsgai and Stephen Kacenski connected.
Hiland displayed some long-range firepower of its own, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter as well.
"The lessons we like to learn in this game, we'd like to learn in winning, but we'll learn from this game," Hill said. "This was a tough opponent. A lot of those missed rebounds were just from not being aggressive. We were there. We just didn't go after the ball aggressively. Sometimes we get away with things in a win. That didn't happen tonight. We couldn't get away without rebounding and we couldn't afford the missed shots, easy shots by hurrying."
Hiland coach Mark Schlabach commended the effort turned in by Ropp.
"A lot of that was the Todd Ropp show," Schlabach said. "He's a frustrating kid to play against. He gets those key rebounds. He's one of those guys whose got a nose for the ball, probably better than anyone we've ever coached."
Hiland also got 15 points from Jordan Yoder and 11 from Blochlinger.
"We had a chance to put them away, but kept fouling," Schlabach said. "We didn't make that adjustment where we stopped fouling and keeping them off the foul line. We're kind of an ugly defensive team. At the same time, that team was 7-0. this is a good win for us."
Hiland improved to 7-1 on the season, while Windham dipped to 7-1.