BOWLING GREEN – There was only one remaining question.
Cam Etzler was dribbling away the final seconds of Crestview’s 44-34 win over Wayne Trace in the championship game of the Bowling Green Division IV boys basketball regional Friday night.
The only thing still in doubt was how high in the air he was going to throw the basketball when the clock hit zero.
It nearly grazed a rafter at the Stroh Center. And then, like the ball, Crestview was soaring. Soaring on its way to the boys state basketball tournament.
The No. 1-ranked Knights (27-0) took out Wayne Trace for the third time this season to earn their first trip to the state tournament since 2003. They will play Tri-Village at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in a state semifinal.
Post players Damian Helm (16 points, 8 rebounds) and Tyson Bolenbaugh (13 points, 6 rebounds) led the way offensively for Crestview. Defensively, the Knights held Wayne Trace to 27 percent shooting, including 0 of 7 in the first quarter and 2 of 15 in the fourth quarter.
Corbin Linder’s 10 points led Wayne Trace (23-4). He and his brother Ethan had combined for 62 points in a regional semifinal, but they totaled just 19 between them Friday.
Crestview took control of the game early when it jumped out to a 16-2 lead in the first minute of the second quarter and never let Wayne Trace get closer than four points the rest of the way.
“Getting off to a good start was huge, and we were able to set the tone early on the defensive end,” Crestview coach Jeremy Best said.
Best said his team was relaxed going into the game, maybe a little more than he was.
“These guys are pretty even keel. They were pretty loose today. They knew what was at stake,” he said. “They kind of eased me along. I get a little fired up or a little antsy at times.”
Wayne Trace and Best were both a little fired up when the Raiders cut a 25-14 Crestview lead to four points, 25-21, midway through the third quarter. But after a timeout, the Knights got the lead back to 29-23 at the end of the third quarter, then regained control of the game by taking a 10-point lead with 6:53 left in the game.
Helm and Bolenbaugh scored 14 of Crestview’s 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“Their posts hurt us tonight, where in the first two games their guards hurt us. Their bigs took over the game,” Wayne Trace coach Jim Linder said.
“Obviously, it wasn’t what we wanted. I thought the team that got off to a good start was going to be successful tonight,” he said. “They guarded us very, very well.”
Corbin Linder called Crestview “the best defensive team we’ll see this year and probably next year.”
Helm said the big games he and Bolenbaugh had were just a matter of taking what was available.
“We just kind of go with the flow of the game. We go with what’s working. Every game is different. If it’s there, we’ll take it,” he said.
Crestview took three wins from its three games against Wayne Trace — a narrow 50-48 decision, a 70-40 blowout and Friday night’s result.
Playing against many of the Wayne Trace players is something a lot of Crestview’s players have been doing for a long time. But, even if it was familiar, this was something different.
“I can remember playing those guys in YMCA ball in fourth, fifth and sixth grade,” Etzler said. “There were, how many people here tonight, and a trip to the state tournament on the line. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Division IV regional final
At Bowling Green
Crestview 44, Wayne Trace 34
Preston Zaleski 3, Cam Etzler 6, Connor Lautzenheiser 5, Damian Helm 16, Tyson Bolenbaugh 13, Isaiah Simerman 1. Totals: 14-13-44.
Ethan Linder 9, Colby Speice 4, Jake Arend 4, Corbin Linder 10, Devin Wenzlick 7. Totals: 10-12-34.
Score by quarters:
C —`Etzler 1, Lautzenheiser 1, Helm 1; WT —`C. Linder 2
Records:`Crestview 27-0; Wayne Trace 23-4.