HARROD — Crestview girls basketball coach Mark Gregory has been searching to fill the voids left from the graduation of some key players from last season.
In Thursday night’s Northwest Conference battle with Allen East, Gregory witnessed the progression of his squad as it pulled away from Allen East in the second half, en route to a 51-40 victory at Allen East to notch its first NWC win of the young season.
With the win, Crestview improves to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the NWC. Allen East slips to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
Olivia Cunningham led Crestview and all scorers with 21 points, including five 3-pointers. The 5-foot-6 sophomore Cunningham also pulled down eight rebounds from her guard spot. Lexi Gregory had 13 points, four assists and four steals. Haley Speith added 10 points for the Knights.
Tori Newland led Allen East with 10 points and seven boards. Katie Newland added nine points and five assists for the Mustangs.
“I thought we did a really nice job of matching their intensity,” Gregory said. “That’s the way we have to play. We don’t have a choice. We’re not the biggest team out there. I was really pleased with our effort tonight.”
Crestview led from start to finish in the first quarter, en route to a 19-12 advantage at the first stop. Cunningham led Crestview, scoring eight points, including two 3-pointers.
Allen East chipped away in the second stanza, cutting the deficit to 2, 19-17, on a 10-footer by Lakin Basham (seven points) at the 5:40 mark.
Then at the five-minute mark, Ally Richardson (seven points) hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to give Allen East its first lead of the game, 20-19.
However, Crestview responded, pushing out to a 26-24 lead by the halftime break.
Cunningham led the Knights with 15 first-half points, including three 3-pointers.
Basham kept the Mustangs close, scoring seven points, all coming in the second quarter, in which Allen East out-scored Crestview 12-7.
“We had different girls step up and hit some big shots for us tonight,” Gregory said. “It was good to see Olivia hit those big shots for us to get us going. And Bailey (Gregory) and Lexi (Gregory) also hit some big shots. Also, don’t forget about Haley Speith scoring 10 points for us tonight. She had a nice game.”
Early into the third quarter, Allen East knotted the game at 26 apiece on a put back by Tori Newland.
But once again, Crestview responded.
Cunningham nailed her fourth 3-pointer of the game, just seconds later, to push the Knights back out on top, 29-26.
Crestview extended its lead to 41-31 by the end of the third quarter.
Allen East was held to just 2 of 7 shooting from the floor in the third period. Cunningham hit two more 3-pointers in the third stanza.
The Knights quickly extended their lead to 13, 44-31, just seconds into the fourth quarter, on a 3-pointer deep in the left corner by Lexi Gregory.
Crestview kept pushing the tempo.
The Knights pulled out to a 51-36 lead with 1:20 left to play, on a fast-break basket by Lexi Gregory.
For the game, Crestview shot 43 percent from the field. Allen East countered with 34-percent shooting from the floor.
Crestview turned the ball over 14 times, while Allen East turned it over 11 times on the night.
“They have some really nice post players; and I thought we did a really nice job of with being strong with the basketball and being strong with their post players,” Gregory said.
The Knights won the battle on the boards, 35-26.
“It’s been a work in progress for us,” Gregory said. “We’ve been talking about it a lot. I think tonight we finally saw some of the fruits of our labor. I’m so happy for those kids. We’ve challenged them and they stepped up tonight.”
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.