NEW PHILADELPHIA - Depth and experience can carry a basketball team a long way.
Hiland's bench outscored Bridgeport 32-0 on Thursday night as the Hawks (22-3) ended the Bulldogs' (23-2) season with a 55-44 decision in an Ohio Division IV girls' district semifinal contest at New Philadelphia High School.
"That's a good team," Bridgeport coach Rob Zitzelsberger said of the Hawks. "They played about 14 or 15 girls and we played six or seven. They hit some 3s and we missed some easy shots."
Bridgeport, which was sixth in the final Associated Press poll, led 28-27 at the half thanks to some deadly outside shooting by Maclaine Murad. The senior drilled four 3-point shots in the second quarter alone and had all but 10 of the Bulldogs' first-half points.
"Maclaine really held us there in the first half," Zitzelsberger said. "She played marvelous. They shut her down in the second half."
The Bulldogs starters held a 44-23 scoring advantage, but Megan Beachy and Brittany Miller came off the Hawks pine to score 13 points each, tying Eastern District Player of the Year Regina Hochstetter for team honors.
Miller scored eight of her points in the decisive third quarter when Hiland, which finished the regular season fourth in the Associated Press poll, took control by virtue of a 20-8 advantage to lead 47-36 with eight minutes remaining.
"My girls have nothing to be ashamed of," Zitzelsberger added. "I'm proud of them We were 21-3 last year and 23-2 this year. We tied the school record for wins in a single season.''
Murad finished with a game-high 20 points, while sophomore Caitlyn Kroll and senior Nicole Smolenak, both of whom were saddled with early foul troubles, evenly divided 20.
"Foul trouble definitely hurt us in the second half," Zitzelsberger said. "They (Hiland) had no answer for Nicole's ballhandling, but when she went out, we didn't have that person to handle the ball against their press."
Kroll also pulled down 11 of Bridgeport's 27 rebounds. The Bulldogs also recorded 14 turnovers.
Hiland had 31 rebounds and only five turnovers.
The Hawks return to New Philly Saturday to meet Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans, which routed Conotton Valley, 67-29, in last night's opener.