BYESVILLE - Veteran River boys' basketball coach Mark Romick thought he had a plan to slow down the Buckeye State's top-ranked Division IV team Tuesday night.
He said his Pilots needed to be patient on offense and take the open 3-point shot whenever they got it.
Well, let's just say his plan didn't pan out.
River (16-7) misfired on its first eight shots - a half-dozen from beyond the bonus arc, and never recovered in a 71-38 setback to the Hawks (21-1) in a Division IV district tournament semifinal.
"When you're playing a very good ball team like Hiland, you have to get some breaks," Romick said. "We knew we couldn't go inside because of the size difference. They play too good of defense in the paint, and that's not one of our strengths."
The Pilots' strength this season has been their 3-point shooting, as they had dialed long-distance 115 times in 22 outings, an average of 5.2 per game. However, they were a miserable 0-for-17 from beyond the arc Tuesday night before Chad Isaly drained one with 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
River would finish 5-for-25 from 3-point land.
"Sometimes you live by the 3 and, if you don't make them, you can die by them," Romick added. "We had some shots, but it's a lot tougher to shoot over a 6-5 kid than it is a 5-10 or 5-11 kid.
"They (Hiland) play tremendous defense on you and they have that length advantage over you. They contest every shot."
Indeed the Hawks did.
River, which came into the game riding a modest two-game winning streak, trailed 17-4 after one quarter and 32-8 at the half. Hiland went on a 26-point outburst in the third to put the game out of reach for good at 58-17.
The Pilots did manage to connect on four bonus bombs in the final period, but it was way too little, way too late.
"We told our kids that they can score points in bunches," Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said of the Pilots. "We've scouted them several times this season and have seen them do it time and again.
"Unfortunately for them, tonight they started a little too late."
The defending state champions were led by 6-foot-5 senior Derek Kaufman, a Findlay University recruit, with 19 points, three more than 6-7 West Liberty University signee Seger Bonifant. Jason Miller added nine, 6-7 Neil Gingerich eight and Cody Gerber seven.
River, which starts five juniors, was paced by Brett Price with 16, but a dozen of those came in the fourth quarter. Jordan Indermuhle added 14 and Isaly the remaining eight as only three Pilots found the scorebook.
"This can be used as a learning experience," Romick said. "We're all juniors and everything we've done this season has been new to these kids. You just have to get better.
"We sat in this same locker room with five seniors after losing to the eventual state champions," he added. "We see what it takes to get better during the offseason if we want to reach the level where Hiland is."
The much taller Hawks enjoyed a 49-26 advantage off the glass as Bonifant grabbed eight and Gingerich seven. Indermuhle had seven for River.