BOWLING GREEN – No. 1-ranked Crestview knew it had its biggest challenge of the season when it took on No. 5 Ottawa Hills in Tuesday’s Division IV regional semifinal at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
With three players 6-foot-7 or taller, Ottawa Hills was definitely Crestview’s tallest challenge of the season.
However, Crestview’s quickness out front and its knack of beating its taller opponents to the glass, helped pave the way for a 49-26 victory over Ottawa Hills.
With the win, Crestview (26-0) will face Wayne Trace (23-3) in Friday’s regional final at BGSU. Tip-off for Friday’s championship game is set for 7 p.m.
In the first regional semifinal Tuesday, Wayne Trace pulled away for an 80-51 victory over Buckeye Central. The Linder brothers, Ethan and Corbin, combined for 62 points for the Raiders.
This season’s regional appearance marks Crestview’s first since it was the Division IV state runner-up in 2003.
In a game where the matchups did not look favorable for Crestview on paper, the Knights overcame the size differential by disrupting Ottawa Hills, both inside and out front.
Cam Etzler, a 5-11 guard, had the task of guarding 6-7 Geoff Beans. For the game, Beans was 0-for-9 from the floor, scoring just two points from the free throw line.
Etzler ended the night with 11 points, four steals and three assists.
Besides Etzler, Crestview had two others in double figures. Connor Lautzenheiser scored 11, while Damian Helm added 10 points and four rebounds.
Crestview coach Jeremy Best had a lot of faith in Etzler’s ability to guard a bigger player.
“He’s a tough kid,” Best said. “We didn’t want him to touch it. And he didn’t let him. Cam did a good job of just hounding him and putting pressure on the ball.”
Etzler was up for the challenge.
“I have to give credit to him,” Etzler said. “He made me work for everything. He’s a 6-7 guy, so I just tried to make him uncomfortable.”
The Knights stood their ground down low and were able to extend Ottawa Hills out away from the basket for most of the game.
“It was a physical game,” Best said. “Both teams were in foul trouble throughout the game. I think we had to try to impose our will. I thought our team effort was fabulous. We had pretty good backside help, most of the time. We had great pressure on the ball; and we said that was going to be the key.”
Both teams did not shoot well. Crestview ended the night, shooting 33 percent. Ottawa Hills shot 23 percent from the floor.
Crestview recorded its first lead, early in the first quarter and pulled out to a 12-3 advantage at the first stop. By the break, the Knights led 21-13.
In the third quarter, Crestview’s defensive pressure helped cause six turnovers. By the end of the third quarter, Crestview led 29-20.
In the fourth quarter, Crestview managed to hold Ottawa Hills to just 1-of-5 shooting. The Knights, on the other hand, made 7-of-11 from the floor with several of those baskets coming off transition.
For the game, Crestview committed just three turnovers, while Ottawa Hills turned the ball over 16 times.
RJ Coil, a 6-9 post player, led Ottawa Hills with 19 points and 14 boards.
Despite being smaller through the lineup, Crestview was outrebounded 29-26.
Said Ottawa Hills coach David Sheldon, “We knew they were an outstanding defensive team. There were no surprises. I thought the physicality of the game was the big difference.”
Crestview 49, Ottawa Hills 26
Preston Zaleski 2, Cam Etzler 11, Connor Lautzenheiser 10, Damian Helm 10, Tyson Bolenbaugh 4, Brock Rolsten 2, Mitchell Rickard 6, Nate Owens 3, Eli Jones 1: 14-17-49
Geoff Beans 2, RJ Coil 19, Ellis Cummings 2, Nick Hauck 1, Matt Abendroth 2: 6-14-26
Three pointers: Crestview: Rickard 2, Owens, Lautzenheiser