COLUMBUS – Crestview didn't play the first half it wanted, but it played the kind of second half every team wants when it goes to the boys state basketball tournament.
The No. 1-ranked Knights overcame a five-point halftime deficit to beat No. 2 Tri-Village 54-50 on Thursday night to advance to a state championship game against Louisville Aquinas on Saturday.
They came back with an impressive second-half effort to return to the state title game for the first time since 2003.
Tyson Bolenbaugh scored 15 points, 13 of them in the last two quarters, to lead Crestview (28-0). Cam Etzler had 13 points and Damian Helm scored 10 points, all of them at the free throw line.
Tyler Cook (20 points) and Damion Cook (16 points) led Tri-Village (26-2).
“We didn't play the first half we would have liked to,” Crestview coach Jeremy Best said. “They kind of imposed their will on us in the first half. I thought after halftime the difference was noticeable in our body language, in our focus on the floor.
“I just give a lot of credit to our kids for coming back in the second half and accepting the challenge we put forth at halftime,” he said.
Crestview challenged Tri-Village from the opening seconds of the second half and went on a 7-0 run in the first two minutes of the third quarter. The Knights took the lead for good at 28-26 on a hoop by Preston Zaleski and took control of the game by outscoring Tri-Village 15-4 in the third quarter and holding the Patriots without a field goal.
Crestview was up 34-28 by the end of that quarter and never let the lead drop below four points in the fourth quarter.
“In the second half they were able to speed us up and caused some uncharacteristic turnovers. I thought their pressure began to wear us down as the game went on. It didn't get us in the first quarter or the second quarter. But by the third, it started to get us,” Tri-Village coach Jason Sagester said.
“We had a poor third quarter and that pretty much summed it up,” he said.
So, just what was the challenge that Best presented to the Knights at halftime?
“Coach challenged me a lot. Tri-Village had kind of shut me down. But all credit to my teammates in the second half, they kept coming to me,” Bolenbaugh said. “Coach challenged me, he told me to get engaged, and I think that helped a lot.”
Etzler said, “We can't exactly repeat what Coach said in the locker room, but he definitely it a fire under our rear ends.
“He knows how to motivate us. Obviously, we've been in some tough situations this year. We came out in that third quarter and got some turnovers and some high percentage shots and that helped get us back in the game,” he said.
Best pointed to the 15 turnovers Crestview's defense forced as one of the keys in the game.
“They had 15 turnovers and every one of them mattered,” he said.
Crestview's pursuit of his first boys basketball state title will continue at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Louisville Aquinas, which beat Harvest Prep 54-41 in Thursday's other Division IV state semifinal.
Crestview 54, Tri-Village 50
Preston Zaleski 6, Cam Etzler 13, Connor Lautzenheiser 7, Damian Helm 10, Tyson Bolenbaugh 15, Isaiah Simerman 3. Totals: 14-22-54.
Damion Cook 16, Colton Linkous 8, Tyler Cook 20, Mason McCabe 6. Totals: 18-10-50.
Score by quarters:
C—`Etzler 1, Lautzenheiser 1, Zaleski 1, Etzler 1; TV—`McCabe 2, D. Cook 1, Linkous 1.
Records:`Crestview 28-0; Tri-Village 26-2.