CONVOY – Crestview boys basketball coach Jeremy Best has been around long enough to know that you can’t predict how a team will play just by how they look before a game.
But he thought he saw something he liked when he looked in the Knights’ eyes before their battle of state-ranked teams with Lima Central Catholic on Friday night. And he liked what he saw once the game started even better, when Crestview dominated the Thunderbirds 66-54.
“The whole night I saw a look in our kids’ eyes. You can say that but it has to have some validity to it. I just thought our kids had a good look in their eyes, I thought they were real confident,” Best said.
“That doesn’t mean you’re going to win the game but we knew what we wanted to and fortunately tonight it worked out.”
Crestview (9-0) came into the game ranked No. 2 in Division IV in The Associated Press boys basketball poll. LCC (9-1) was the third-ranked team in Division III.
Damian Helm scored 25 points and Cam Etzler had 11 points to lead Crestview, which never was behind in the game.
Xavier Simpson scored 19 points and Martyce Kimbrough had 16 points, but the Thunderbirds weren’t able to get their two top scorers on the same page. Fifteen of Simpson’s point came in the first half and Kimbrough had all but four of his points in the second half.
“When you want to beat a fundamental team on the offensive and the defensive end, you’re going to have to play just like them. You’re going to have to play fundamental,” LCC coach Frank Kill said.
“We didn’t play very fundamental tonight. We didn’t get a lot of good shots, we didn’t get (defensive) stops when we needed to,” he said.
Crestview, a 20-win team a year ago with its five top scorers from that team back this season, went to Helm, a 6-foot, 4-inch senior post player early and often and kept coming back to him.
“Coach always tells me to be aggressive. Once I got a couple Coach just told me to keep driving, keep driving, keep making plays,” Helm said. “Coach talked about believing. We’ve got a ton of tough guys who came together and played well as a team tonight.”
When Etzler, who missed all six of his shots in the first half, put in 11 points in the second half, the Knights became an even tougher matchup for LCC. And it wasn’t just those two, with every starter producing at least six points and Isiah Simerman getting off the bench for eight points overall.
“We really tried to get it to Damo, he can put it on the floor, and he’s a tough matchup,” Best said about Helm. “Those two (Helm and Etzler) are our senior leaders, and they had to manage the game for us. But it was a total group effort.”
The game began ominously for LCC when it had turnovers on six of its first possessions.
Even with all the mistakes, Crestview led only 4-2 when the Thunderbirds regained their composure. But the mistakes might have helped create that look Best saw in his team’s eyes.
“That gave us some energy. Last year I remember we got in a hole and they kind of capitalized on that,” Etzler said.
Crestview needed all the energy it could muster on Wednesday afternoon when the Knights had a 2 ½ -hour practice.
“We did a lot of defensive drills in that 2 ½ hour practice. It was probably one of the best and most intense practices we’ve had. Coach watched film on film on film on these guys and he knew the scouting report. We did a nice job on the defensive end,” Etzler said.
LCC was down only 28-26 at halftime but a big third quarter sent Crestview out to a 46-34 lead going into the final eight minutes. LCC got the margin down to eight points twice in the fourth quarter but that was as close as it could get.