Lots of basketball teams say they’ll be back to go farther next year when they see their season end just short of a trip to the state tournament.
Crestview was one of the few that actually made it happen.
The Knights’ trip to the Division IV boys basketball state tournament this week comes one year after they were stopped one game short of the Schottenstein Center when they were beaten 70-58 by Pandora-Gilboa in the Bowling Green regional championship game last March.
“I think there was a level of belief that if we were healthy and fortunate and maybe a little lucky, maybe we could put ourselves in this situation and we did,” Crestview coach Jeremy Best said earlier this week.
“We’re a senior-laden group that has had expectations placed on them since they’ve been young. For them to punch that ticket to get to the state tournament is really gratifying for them and their families,” he said.
The Knights (26-1) will play Richmond Heights (21-6) at 2 p.m. Friday in a Division IV state semifinal. St. Henry (24-3) and Berlin Hiland (27-1) will play the other Division IV semifinal at noon Friday and the championship game will be at 5:15 p.m. Saturday.
Crestview starts four seniors and has three other seniors on its roster. Some of those seniors have started since they were freshmen. Drew Kline has 103 career starts, Javin Etzler has played in 103 games and Wade Sheets has played in close to 100 games.
Javin Etzler, a 6-7 senior who has signed with Miami (Ohio), leads Crestview in scoring (14.4) and rebounding (7.1). Kalen Etzler, a 6-8 sophomore, averages 12.8 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.
Wade Sheets, a 6-3 senior, scores 9.1 points a game. Derrick Dealey averages 8.9 points a game and Kline averages 5.6 points and 5.0 assists a game. Crestview’s starting lineup has scored 86 percent of the Knights’ points this season.
Crestview’s seniors have also been very successful on the football field, where they reached the regional championship game twice in the last three years.
“Our seniors have had multiple (years of) success in football and we’ve carried that over to basketball. I think there is a very strong connection,” Best said. “At small schools you have to harness that and utilize that.
“If you have guys that compete and know how to compete and battle and win you hope that carries over in every sport,” he said.
Crestview won the 2014 Division IV state title, was runner-up in 2003 and was a semifinalist in 1971.
Richmond Heights’ starters all are scoring in double figures, led by 6-3 guard Gbolahan Adio (16.8) and 6-2 point guard Curtis Houston (12.8 points, 8.0 assists, 7.2 rebounds). Jevontae Jones, a 6-5 forward, averages 11.0 points and 6.4 rebounds. Anthony Maxie, a 6-4 forward, averages 10.0 points and 10.8 rebounds, and B.J. Carter, a 6-2 guard, is scoring 10.7 points a game.
“It could be anybody any night,” Richmond Heights coach Quentin Rogers said about who leads his team in scoring on an Ohio High School Athletic Association teleconference earlier this week.
Richmond Heights has scored more than 100 points against two overmatched opponents and has scored 80 or more in five other games.
The Spartans’ schedule was a little unusual with only seven home games, but that was by design, Rogers said.
“That was deliberately done to get them mentally tough and put them in situations where they were as uncomfortable as possible. From our scrimmage schedule to our regular season schedule, we went out and tried to play the best the state of Ohio has,” he said.
Rogers is a former AAU coach who won four national championships with All-Ohio Red, whose rosters included players like Jared Sullinger, Jon Diebler and Aaron Craft.
St. Henry-Berlin Hiland
St. Henry is in the boys state basketball tournament for the first time since it won the Division III state championship in 2004.
The Redskins went to the state tournament five times between 1979 and 2004 and won a state championship on four of those trips. So, by St. Henry standards, it has been a while since they’ve gotten to the Final Four.
“The one positive of not making it since 2004 is that it makes the community a little hungrier or more engaged. Our students are into it, everybody is into it,” St. Henry coach Eric Rosenbeck said.
Caden Niekamp, a 6-6, 300-pound Ball State football recruit, leads St. Henry in scoring (12.9) and rebounding (7.5). Zach Niekamp, a 6-1 senior, averages 11.1 points a game. Ethan Thieman, a 6-0 senior, is scoring 8.9 points a game. Jay Knapke, a 6-3 senior, averages 8.8 points and 7.2 rebounds and Ben Evers, a 5-11 junior, averages 4.4 points a game.
Hiland is making its eleventh appearance in a boys basketball state tournament, including state championships in 2012, 2011 and 1992. Its girls basketball teams have gone to 15 state tournaments and have won five state championships.
“Boys and girls here, we have really high expectations and we’re not afraid to put them out there. Our goal every year is to make it to the state tournament. And if we don’t, we’re willing to say that it hasn’t been the year we wanted it to be,” Berlin Hiland coach Mark Schlabach said.
Kendall Hochstetler, a 6-1 senior, leads the Hawks in scoring at 15.7 points a game. Andy Miller, a 5-9 guard, (6.5 points, 6.6 assists) is Hiland’s career assists leader.
Hiland ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in Division IV, Crestview was No. 2 and St. Henry was No. 3.
“It’s not very often you see the three top-ranked teams in the state make it (to the state tournament). It usually doesn’t play out that way,” Rosenbeck said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.