Despite its 14-12 record, Crestview, the Division IV state champions, was hoping for one last run in hopes of defending its title as they entered the district semifinal against No. 1 ranked Columbus Grove Tuesday.
But the Knights could not overcome Columbus Grove’s tenacious defense and the Bulldogs collected a 50-42 victory to advance to the district final.
Columbus Grove faces Kalida at Elida at 7 p.m. on Friday. Crestview ends its season with a 14-13 record.
The Bulldog defense was tested throughout the contest as the Knights were not going to relinquish its crown without a fight. However, the Bulldogs continually thwarted any significant runs in the final eight minutes to secure the win.
Columbus Grove head coach Chris Sautter said his team had all they could handle and his team surviving the Knights third quarter proved to be the difference.
“They went to that zone and we didn’t shoot the ball worth a hoot and if you can’t shoot the ball from the perimeter a zone is a really good thing to do,” Sautter said. “We didn’t get many touches inside and Blake (Reynolds) hardly touched it and you saw when he was able to touch it and get the ball in the paint he was able to make things happen.”
Corralling Ohio State bound Kalen Etzler was a major factor in the Bulldogs’ victory. Etzler, who was plagued with foul trouble in the first half, was limited to 12 points on the night. In the first half he managed two points.
Offensively for the Bulldogs, Blake Reynolds, who grabbed eight rebounds, proved to be a major force as he scored 22 points on the night. The Northwest Conference Player of the Year did most of his damage inside and was
With 6:20 left in the second quarter, Crestview and Columbus Grove were tied 15-15 and the Knights were hanging with the Bulldogs but for the remaining six minutes of the half, Columbus Grove took over.
The Bulldogs, who have prided themselves on their defense all season, went on a 13-2 run to snare a 28-17 advantage at halftime. In that game changing run, the Bulldogs forced three turnovers and swatted away two Crestview shots to stymie the Knights’ offense.
It didn’t help the Knights’ cause that Kalen Etzler was on the bench for the bulk of that run saddled with two fouls.
Providing the bulk of the offense was Reynolds who scored seven points. Tayt Birnesser hit a big 3-pointer as well.
“We told them that Kalen got in some foul trouble and we had to make some hay with him on the bench,” Sautter said. “That’s what we needed to do. You get the other team’s best player sitting on the bench you got to make them pay for it.”
Despite Columbus Grove’s second stanza run, the Bulldogs could not build on that momentum and it was the Knights who clawed their way back into the game. Throwing up a 2-3 zone, the Bulldogs had trouble finding its offensive footing and it was Crestview producing clutch baskets.
Up 34-21 at the 4:36 mark, Crestview, sparked by its defense, went on a 10-0 run, to slice the lead to 34-29 going into the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs’ defense came alive again and opened up a 41-33 lead when Gabe Clement popped a trey and then followed it up with a steal and a layup with a little more than four minutes on the clock.
Down the stretch, Reynolds hit some clutch free throws to put the game away.