BLUFFTON — Crestview started the year 2-7 and few thought there would be any net cutting in the Knights’ postseason.
But with a 2-3 zone and its inside game, Crestview won the sectional title.
Crestview’s Carson Kreischer scored 14 points to lead the Knights to a 40-37 victory over Delphos St. John’s to win the Division IV boys basketball sectional finals Friday at Bluffton University’s Sommer Center. The game was played before a packed crowd of close to 3,000 fans.
“We played our butts off,” Kreischer said after helping cut down the sectional net. “It’s as simple as that. I’m so proud of them. … We started off 2-7 and it was tough. We had to keep scratching and clawing and I think that defines this group of guys.’’
In the second sectional finals game of the night, Columbus Grove rolled past Ada 59-35.
Crestview’s Kalen Etzler hit a free throw with 23 seconds left to give the Knights a 40-37 lead.
The Knights then survived a last-second 3-point shot by St. John’s Brady Parrish, which rattled around the rim and bounced out.
Crestview coach Doug Etzler was proud of the way his team pulled the season together after a slow start.
The Knights graduated four starters from last year’s state title team.
“It was a team that came in really young and believed in what we were preaching and just kept getting better and better,” coach Etzler said. “We took our lumps early, but it didn’t deter them from what we were trying to get to.’’
Etzler had eight points and 10 rebounds for the Knights.
J.J. Ward had eight points and two 3-pointers.
“We came together as a family,” Ward said.
Crestview (13-11) advances to the district semifinals against the Columbus Grove (23-0) at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Elida Fieldhouse.
St. John’s ends its season 14-8.
Matthew Kahny led the Blue Jays with 12 points on four 3-pointers. He hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Parrish finished with 11 points.
Crestview won the boards, 21-14.
Crestview led 22-20 at the half.
The second half was close the whole way.
The Knights took the lead to stay 32-30 on a driving layup by Ward with 55 seconds left in the third.
Crestview led 34-30 after three.
But when Aiden Rode canned a 3-pointer St. John’s got within 36-35 with 6:20 to go.
Gavin Etzler answered with a 3-pointer and the Knights’ lead grew to 39-35.
After Etzler’s free throw made it 40-37, St. John’s had the ball and called timeout with 2.7 seconds to go.
St. John’s had a final shot, but it wouldn’t go down at the buzzer.
On Dec. 27, St. John’s rolled past Crestview 58-37.
This time around it looked St. John’s was going to pick up where it left off in Round 1.
The Blue Jays’ Kahny nailed three quick 3-pointers in the opening four minutes and St. John’s ripped out to a 13-2 lead.
“We knew if we kept pounding away we would have a chance,” Kreischer said.
Crestview scrapped its man and went to a 2-3 zone and the momentum began to change.
“We worked on it (the 2-3) yesterday and talked about communication and rebounding the basketball and our guys did a great job,” coach Etzler said. “I think it helped us slow the pace down.’’
The Knights got within 13-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Staying with the 2-3 zone, Crestview started the second quarter on a 10-5 run to pull out to a 19-18 lead.
Crestview went into halftime with a 22-20 lead.
Kreischer and Ward both had six points for the Knights at the half, while Kalen Etzler scored five.
Kreischer had three layups in the third quarter, all from down low.
“Any time they had a small on him, our guys were good enough to find him,” coach Etzler said. “He’s had two great games in the tournament.’’
While the Knights were content with their zone, St. John’s used both a man press and a 1-2-2 press.
In the halfcourt, St. John’s rotated a number of guards on Etzler, but they had trouble containing Kreischer in the paint.
“Take Kalen out of the mix and these guys are brand new guys at this level,” coach Etzler said. “This is the biggest win a lot of them have had.’’
Columbus Grove 59,
Columbus Grove cranked up its rebound-and-run game early and ran past Ada to win the Division IV sectional title at Bluffton University.
Tayt Birnesser scored 15 points with two 3-pointers and Blake Reynolds scored 12 points.
Gabe Clement added 10 points for Grove.
Brandon Hall had 15 points for Ada, while Phil Coulson scored nine.
Columbus Grove, which posted its first unbeaten boys basketball regular season, is 23-0.
Ada is 10-14.
The Bulldogs came out pressing and running and led 15-2 early and held a 19-6 after the first quarter.
Grove led 32-14 at the half.
Last Friday night Columbus Grove knocked off Ada 56-46.
But this time around, Ada wasn’t able to stay with Grove’s high-octane offense.
Grove coach Chris Sautter said this was a different team this week after getting starter Evan Hopkins back from sickness.
Down a man last week the Bulldogs weren’t able to run.
“Last Friday we played a man down and we had to play a different style,” Sautter said. “They (the Ada Bulldogs) had a lot of confidence coming from last week playing us tight. We knew if we let them hang around early it would be a dogfight. Getting Hop (Hopkins) back tonight was huge for us.’’
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.