Crestview’s Damina Helm posts up in this file photo. Helm poured in 16 points as Crestview topped Spencerville on Friday night. (TB file photo)
BY JIM COX
Times Bulletin Correspondent
SPENCERVILLE - Undefeated Crestview withstood another major test Friday night. The Knights survived a battle for the Northwest Conference lead against a young-but-inspired Spencerville team. A 21-7 second quarter turned out to be the difference in a 65-60 Knight victory. Crestview now sits alone atop the NWC at 4-0, all four of those wins coming on the road. The Knights are 14-0 overall. The Bearcats are 5-1 and 11-4.
Spencerville coach Kevin Sensabaugh was not at all down about the defeat. “Gosh, I thought that was a really good game!” said Sensabaugh. “Our kids battled their tails off. Crestview’s kids did too. Those are two good basketball teams going at it. I thought the second quarter was the difference. We had some turnovers. We didn’t defend very well the second quarter, but to our kids’ credit, they never quit. It was a great battle. It was fun!”
“The second quarter we started to get some stops, obviously, and were able to get out in transition,” explained Knight coach Jeremy Best. “Then the direct opposite of that happened in the third quarter. We started fouling too much. The game slowed down. They got to the free throw line. We couldn’t get stops and get out in transition. But I thought as the game played on there, maybe our experience made the difference.”
Knight senior Damian Helm started the scoring with a layup via an assist from senior point guard Cam Etzler, but the Cats answered with a 7-0 run to go up 7-2. The home team held on to that five-point lead, and it was 13-8 after one, courtesy of three Bearcat hoops from beyond the arc. Helm had six of the eight Crestview points.
The second quarter, however, was an entirely different story. Sophomore Connor Lautzenheiser landed a floater, and Etzler added a traditional three-point play to tie it at 13 at the 7:05 mark. Spencerville’s Dakota Prichard’s 15-foot baseliner took the lead back, but Etzler tied it again with a pull-up jumper from the foul line. Bowers’ three-point play made it 18-15, but Etzler again hit from the foul line area, and junior Preston Zaleski scored on a breakaway to get a 19-18 lead. Bowers split a pair at the line to tie it at 19 with 4:44 on the clock, but Lautzenheiser drained a three from the left wing to get the lead for good, 22-19.
The visitors led 29-20 at the half, thanks mainly to a 9-for-12 second quarter field goal shooting performance, during which five Knights scored. Meantime, Spencerville went cold from the field — 2 for 8 in the second stanza. As it turned out, the Bearcats would never quite recover from that, although they came close on several occasions.
The Bearcats started the third quarter with two Zack Goeke free throws and a 17-foot angle shot by Prichard to trail by five, 29-24 at 6:30. The two teams literally traded baskets and free throws for the rest of the period, but one of Spencerville’s buckets was a Nourse trey, so the gap narrowed to four, 36-32, after three.
With the NWC lead hanging in the balance, the fourth quarter turned into a 57-point shootout, won by the Knights, 29-28. After a basket trade (senior Tyson Bolenbaugh and Goecke), Helm hit nothing but net on a trey from the left corner — 41-34 at 6:39. Bowers and Etzler each cashed in a pair of free throws, as did Goecke — 43-38 with 5:06 on the clock. That’s when it started to get away from the Bearcats.
Senior Isaiah Simerman recovered a ball under the bucket and laid it in. Zaleski’s steal and pass to Lautzenheiser resulted in a three-point play to make it 48-38 at 4:20. Prichard’s baseline drive cut it to 48-40, but Lautzenheiser trumped that with a 17-foot baseline jumper. Bolenbaugh scored via an Etzler pass to lead by 12, 52-40, at 3:15. That appeared to settle the matter, but not quite.
The game then became a parade to the Crestview free throw line (14 of 20 in the fourth quarter), countered by a desperate-but-successful Bearcat three-point attack. Spencerville landed four treys, three by Goecke and one by Nourse in the last minute and a half. The lead got as small as 59-55 at 0:48, but Zaleski’s layup and his three freebies in four attempts pushed the lead out to 64-55 and salted the game away.
Hot fourth quarters by both teams — 7-of-9 field goal shooting by the Knights, 10-of-14 by the Bearcats — led to some good shooting percentages for the game. Crestview was 22 of 39 for 56 percent, Spencerville 19 of 40 for 48 percent. The Knights were a bit better from the stripe: 70 percent (19 of 27) to 67 percent (14 of 21). The Bearcats won the boards 20-18, but the Knights had only six turnovers in the entire game, while Spencerville was also solid with 11.
Crestview had four double-digit scorers, Etzler, Helm, Lautzenheiser, and Zaleski with 17, 16, 12, and 10. Goecke, Bowers, and Nourse had 22, 13, and 11 for Spencerville.
Spencerville’s starting lineup included two freshmen, two sophomores, and a senior, but Sensabaugh thought nothing of that. “I don’t think of them as young kids anymore,” he said. “They’ve played 15 games. It doesn’t matter how old we are or how young we are, we just wanna win. We prepare the same with these young guys as we did with the senior-laden team we had last year.”
“I tell you what, I’m very impressed with their young kids,” said Best. “I think our guys played with some toughness and tenacity, but I’m not sure that they (the Bearcats) didn’t win that battle tonight. But I credit our kids. They had to earn it.”
The victory was career win number 200 for Best.
The Crestview jayvees are 10-4 after cruising to a 48-19 win. Cody Mefferd and Braden Van Cleave led the Knight scoring with 19 and 11. No Bearcat scored more than four.
Score by quarters:
Spencerville 13 7 12 28 - 60
Crestview 8 21 7 29 - 65
Bowers 13, Goeke 22, Prichard 9, Nourse 11, Bailey Croft 5, Meyer 0, Griffin Croft 0, Long 0.
Zaleski 10, Etzler 17, Lautzenheiser 12, Helm 16, Bolenbaugh 6, Simerman 4, Jones 0, Rickard 0.