CONVOY — For the second straight season, Crestview has prevented Spencerville from garnering its first Northwest Conference title in girls basketball.
Behind a solid defensive effort and some clutch shooting in the second half, the Knights handed the Bearcats a 54-43 loss in a key NWC clash Thursday night.
With the loss, Spencerville dips to 16-5 and 6-2 in the conference and tied Crestview for second in the conference who also finished at 6-2 and the regular season with a 14-6 mark. With the Spencerville loss, Bluffton and Columbus Grove share the NWC crown.
Crestview head coach Mark Gregory said he was not concerned about playing the spoiler role but just getting another league win.
“That was not what it really was about for us,” Gregory said. “I just wanted to win as many games in our conference as we could and I thought tonight was just the epitome of our season. We just don’t quit. We got beat the other night by Wayne Trace and our kids don’t stop and they don’t quit and they showed it tonight.”
Gregory added that Spencerville has some phenomenal players and the Knights’ strategy was to slow them down.
The smothering Knights’ defense held the Bearcats to single digits in two of the four quarters played and continually harassed Spencerville into unwarranted shots. Perhaps the key was not allowing the Bearcats to hit from the outside.
In the game, the Bearcats were 3 of 14 from behind the 3-point arc.
“I think they played great defense tonight,” Spencerville head coach Greg Ekis said. “They knew who were some of our shooters were and were able to do a good job of taking them out and really challenging them and credit to them, they played some pretty good defense tonight.”
Rebounding also played a major role in the Knights’ wins. Crestview outrebounded Spencerville 26-16 for the game and a number of those came on the offensive boards that gave the Knights several second chances at scoring.
“We talked about trying to block out and not allow them second chance points and they got a lot of those tonight,” Ekis said.
Crestview guard Lexi Gregory, who finished with 11 rebounds, also scored 11 points. Bailey Gregory was the game’s leading scorer with 19 and hit eight straight free throws down the stretch in the fourth quarter to preserve the win. Olivia Cunningham played an important role in the scoring with 10 points as she hit two clutch treys in the second and third quarter.
“We hit some real big shots and some of those were off second half opportunities that we got off rebounds,” Gregory said. “I can’t say enough about our girls not quitting tonight on each and just keep playing as hard as they can and see what happen. When you play hard like that good things happen.”
Early in the game, Spencerville post player Alex Davis was keeping the Bearcats close for much of the first half. However, the Bearcats were generating little offense from the outside, due to the Knights’ pressure and it would show in the pivotal third quarter.
“The first half she (Davis) hurt and in the second half I thought we did a better job on her,” Gregory said. “Again it was limiting her touches and limiting her opportunities.”
With the score 23-19 going into the second half, Crestview opened up its biggest lead of the game by limiting the Bearcats offense and hitting getting some precision perimeter shooting. In that third stanza, the Knights hit were 4 of 9 from 3-point land to spark the offense while limiting Spencerville to nine points.
While outscoring the Bearcats by 14-9 in the third period does not seem like a lot it was instrumental in giving the Knights a 37-28 lead going into the final quarter.
In the final eight minutes, Spencerville never found its shooting touch and the closest they would get would be five points.
Bearcat Nelaya Burden, who tried to do all she could to bring the Bearcats back, ended up with 16 points after scoring 11 fourth quarter points. Carter, who scored eight points in the first two quarters finished with 12 after managing four in the final two periods. Emma Leis finished with 11 points.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.