Championship Knight: Crestview battles Aquinas for title
Saturday, March 22, 2014 12:00 AM
By John Parent
Crestview sophomore Connor Lautzenheiser (11) penetrates past the defense of Tri-Village guard Tyler VanWinkle during Thursday night’s state semi-final game. Lautzenheiser scored seven points in the victory and averages nine points per contest for the Knights. (Times Bulletin/Brian Bassett)
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
COLUMBUS — “In ‘03, we were blessed and fortunate to be in this situation,” Crestview head coach Jeremy Best recalled during the post-game press conference following the Knights’ 54-50 state semi-final victory over Tri-Village on Thursday night. “Our program has been here before and it’s time we want to take that next step.”
That next step, of course, comes with one more win.
Crestview stands on the brink of a perfect season. They’ve faced down 28 opponents and beaten them all. On Saturday afternoon at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of the Ohio State University, Best and his Knights will take on opponent number 29, the Knights of Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas. The winner takes home the Division IV state championship.
“That’s a goal that we set at the beginning of the year, to be playing on the last day of the season,” added Crestview senior Cam Etzler. “And we felt that was a realistic goal. We knew what we had coming back (in terms of roster), and we knew what we could do as a team. I think it hit us early in the season that we could do that (play for a state title), but we’ve taken it one game at a time.”
The Knights have made it to that final day of the season, and they’ll meet an unlikely foe in St. Thomas Aqunias.
The team from Louisville (pronounced Lewis-ville), a city of 9000 residents located near Canton that was founded by a gentleman by the name of Henry Lautzenheiser. Aquinas finished the regular season with an 11-11 record, but have now won nine consecutive games to reach the precipice of what would be their first state basketball title.
Aquinas finished 3-7 in the North Coast League, but don’t let that fool you. The NCL is a conference comprised of Cleveland-area private schools that includes Villa Angela-St. Jospeh, which will play Lima Central Catholic for the Division III state title on Saturday evening.
The black-and-gold Knights are led by 6-foot-3 senior Austin Hill, who averages 17 points per game and was a co-Player of the year in Division IV. Hill was just 3-for-8 from the field in Aquinas’ 54-41 semi-final win over Canal Winchester Harvest Prep, but those three field goals all came from beyond the arc.
Junior guard Anthony Moeglin (6-foot) averages 11.5 points per contest and five rebounds per game, but he exploded for 14 boards versus Harvest Prep. Sophomore Jacob Paul is the third member of Aquinas’ team to boast a double-figure scoring average, netting 10.9 points per contest.
Crestview, of course, has three players of its own that boast double-figure scoring on a given night. Seniors Damian Helm (15.2 points per game), Tyson Bolenbaugh (15 points, eight rebounds vs Tri-Village), and Cam Etzler (10 points and five assists per game) measure up well versus the Aquinas trio and Crestview has another scorer, Connor Lautzenheiser, averaging better than nine points per game.
Aquinas entered the final four averaging 63 points per game and allowing 50. Crestview scores just a shade under 60 (59.9) and is one of the stingiest teams in the state, yielding just 40 points per game. Unlike some of the previous games on this tournament trail, Crestview will have a significant height advantage inside, as Hill is Aquinas’ tallest starter. The four-guard offense means Aquinas may have an advantage in terms of speed and quickness, however, and Aquinas takes care of the ball fairly well, committing 11.8 turnovers per contest. Crestview, meanwhile, forces opponents into an average of 14 turnovers per game and forced Tri-Village to cough it up 15 times on Thursday.
While Aquinas’ record isn’t as pretty as many of the teams that Crestview has beaten along the way, coach Best knows nothing will come easy in a state championship game.
“We know that it’s not just going to happen, that we’re going to have to prepare and get ready for St. Thomas Aquinas,” Best said. “I think our guys will be ready to play. How could you not be?”
“One of our mottos this year has been ‘play 29,’ and I think we established that the sixth or seventh game of the year,” Etzler added, indicating that Saturday’s championship game would be the 29th game the Knights have played this season. “Coach said it was a long ways away, but that it would be here like that (snapping his fingers). Saturday at 1:30, we’re going to be there, and I think we just have to live in the moment, and don’t make the game bigger than what it is.”
Bigger than what it is? This one is for Crestview’s first-ever boys basketball state championship. But, with this group of players, it’s just another game for the Boys from the ‘Voy.