BOWLING GREEN – Maumee Valley Country Day’s Zeb Jackson got his points but Crestview got the win and more importantly a trip to state after the Knights upended the Hawks, 66-49, in Friday night’s Division IV regional semifinal at Bowling Green State University.
With the win, Crestview returns to state after a five-year absence and will take on Richmond Heights in the state semifinals at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Arena at 2 p.m. Friday. Maumee Valley ends its season at 19-9.
Crestview head coach Jeremy Best said the team never really talked about making state but after coming up short in the regional finals it was evident what the Knights’ goal was this year.
“We really didn’t dwell on it or write it on the board everyday because we knew if we stayed healthy, and the Lord blessed us with that most of the year, and stayed together, we could put ourselves possibly in this position with some luck and we have had that so far and you have to have that to play in the state tournament.”
Maumee Valley’s Zeb Jackson, who came into the game averaging 24 points a game, finished with 25 points. Jackson, who had only five points in the first half, finished with 25 points and almost brought the Hawks back but the hole Maumee Valley had dug itself in was too much to overcome.
Best said the Knights threw up a 1-3-1 type of zone defense with Crestview defenders hounding Jackson up and down the court.
“We just wanted to be around him (Jackson),” Best said. “We played a little different defense that we typically don’t do where Drew Kline as our chaser and these two guys chasing (Javin Etzler and Drew Kline),” Best said. “They set a lot of high ball screens and Jay was there most of the times. I think he was 7 of 30 so we obviously pressured and bothered him a little bit.”
Jackson said he is used to being tightly defended and struggled in the first half, going 1 for 11 from the field and two of three from the charity stripe.
“It has been happening all season but they played good defense,” Jackson said.
Crestview’s Kalen Etzler finished with 25 points and it was his 13 points in the second quarter that allowed the Knights to open a 29-19 lead at halftime. The sophomore sensation, who at one point made eight straight points including clutch back-to-back treys, also grabbed nine caroms.
“Any time you can string together some buckets, especially some threes, those are momentum shifters and confidence builders,” Best said.
Teammate and brother Javin Etzler scored 17 points and snared 10 caroms and Derek Dealey, who came up with 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter was instrumental in curtailing the Hawks’ comeback in the final eight minutes when Jackson was heating up.
Crestview outscored Maumee Valley 17-4 in the second period.
“Obviously they are a very good basketball team and you can’t give them second chance opportunities,” Conover said. “We could have probably weathered our offensive woes but we were gassed in the second quarter which led to some shots falling short.”
Crestview maintained that momentum into the third quarter and then withstood Jackson’s late offensive onslaught in the fourth quarter coupled with tenacious Hawk defensive pressure, which saw Maumee Valley slice a 16 point lead down to four, 50-46, with 4:51 left in the game.
“They cut it to four and that is what good teams with good players and good athletes do but I’ll take these guys any day of the week to come back and fight for us and they did,” Best said.
An emotional Best said this team is a tightly knit group that kept its composure, thanks to senior leadership, down the stretch to get to state. Last year, Crestview came up short in the regional final.
“Our love and concern for each other is unreal,” Best said. “A lot of teams that get to this level talk about it but ours is at another level.”
Javin Etzler said making state has always been a dream and now it is a reality.
“We kind of looked at each other with about under minute left and the game still wasn’t over and looked at each other and we had commanding leading and it came into perspective for me, like ‘we did it,’” Kline said. “We made it to where we wanted to be and we worked for this for a long time and it is awesome. We still have unfinished business. We have never made it this far so and we are happy to be here but we have work to do.”