Coaches, brothers, Mark and David Schlabach build winning basketball teams at Berlin-Hiland Berlin-Hiland boys win Ohio Div IV State Championship
Somewhere in eastern Ohio, there's a boy, a second grader, bouncing a ball and dreaming of the day he'll follow in his father's footsteps. Will is his name and he's living a hoops dream in the small town of Berlin, the place where his father and his uncle were born and raised.
Will is surrounded by basketball. His father, Mark Schlabach, is the boys head coach and his uncle, Dave Schlabach, is the girls head coach at Berlin Hiland High School. They both played basketball at Hiland under the legendary coach Perry Reese, Jr. Now the brothers have inherited the basketball programs and are forging their own legacy.
"What an honor it is to coach for Berlin," Mark Schlabach said. "This is Coach Reese's program. That's how I feel about it. All our coaches played for him and remember the lessons he taught us. What we learned from him is something we don't take for granted."
A brain tumor cut short Coach Reese's life in 2000. He was just 48 years old.
"He was a great coach," Mark Schlabach said. "He took three Hiland teams to the state final four in his last three years. There's no question he would have continued to have great success."
Coach Reese led Hiland to the boys state title in 1992. Mark Schlabach was a freshman on the JV team that season, but still calls 1992 as a "big year in my life."
"It was such a great time in my life," Mark Schlabach said of the championship run. "I can remember every one of those games."
Flash forward to the 2010-2011 season and the finals of the Division IV state championship game against Canal Winchester Harvest Prep. Coach Mark Schlabach roamed the sidelines as his Hiland team put on a basketball clinic in front of a crowd of 11,232 at Ohio State University's Value City Arena.
The Hawks (27-1) opened on a 10-0 and defeated Harvest Prep, 63-48. The victory was the school's second ever boys state championship. Hiland won all eight tournament games by nine points or more and outscored its opponents by a 70-39 average margin.
"Honestly, the final game was a blur," Mark Schlabach said. "I haven't even watched it again. The game was a lot like our other games. Our team had a lot of poise down the stretch. We really competed in the fourth quarter and did everything we needed to do to win. We were 10 for 10 from line in the fourth quarter."
Mark Schlabach now has something else in common with his brother—they both own championship rings. Dave Schlabach, who is 11 years older, has a 439-65 career record that includes four state championships, two state runner-ups and a pair of 28-0 seasons. Dave Schlabach is recognized as one of the best prep basketball coaches in Ohio.
"I'm very lucky that I coach with my brother," Mark Schlabach said. "We share a lot of ideas together and our staffs work a lot together."
Mark Schlabach said his older brother is the best at coaching the details of the game.
"It's fun to watch his practices and how the girls are aware of the most minute details," Mark Schlabach said. "They really break things down."
Mark Schlabach is also grateful that his brother is always on his side.
"The one thing I never want to do is coach against him," Mark Schlabach said. "He knows how to prepare for an opponent. I think he's the absolute best at getting his team ready to play. He also knows how to make a long tournament run and how to deal with the long grind that comes with it. He's been there and made that run successfully so many times." Older brother feels the same way.
"Our staff benefits from theirs, and vice versa, Dave Schlabach said. "Having the ability to work together has really helped the players in both of our programs." Mark Schlabach remembers Coach Reese talking about shooting and what he would say about it before games.
"If you asked Coach Reese what we had to do to win a game, he would tell you ‘make a few shots tonight.' Score the basketball." Both coaches use the Noah Select System to help improve their team's shooting. However, Mark Schlabach doesn't apply Noah in a traditional sense.
"We don't practice for a long time, just 90 minutes each day," Mark Schlabach said. "We plan on playing 28 games, which is every game you need to play to win the championship. So we don't believe in long practices." Since Hiland doesn't practice very long, it's hard for the team to incorporate Noah into its daily routine. However, the Hawks do use it in a clever way.
"When we feel a player is struggling with his shooting, we get him on the Noah and it's a great way to get him back," Mark Schlabach said. "The one thing we noticed is that when kids are struggling, the arch is inconsistent. Noah helps get the player shooting consistently again." In the offseason, both coaches have Noah available during open gym to any player who wants to come in early and get in a session. It's like anything else, those players who want to improve are the ones who take advantage of this opportunity. The Schlabachs also will allow junior high players to use Noah this summer for the first time.
"We are going to have our seventh and eighth graders use Noah two sessions per week as an experiment," Mark Schlabach said. "We really feel that if we can get a kid on Noah for five or six yearsthen we'll see some tremendous benefits from it. We think that's the logical next step."
"Like anything else, the more they put into it, the more they get out of it." Dave Schlabach said. "We think it can really benefit our players who start using it in junior high, and continue through their high school careers." As for coaching his children—Mark Schlabach has two sons and two daughters—he said that he coached Will for the first time this season. The second grader played up on the fourth grade team.
"It's already a love-hate relationship," Mark Schlabach said with a laugh. "I'm looking forward to it but very apprehensive at the same time."
He did acknowledge that his sons love being around the game and around the Hiland basketball program.
"They are having the time of their lives," Mark Schlabach said.
Just like he did and continues to do.