Crestview senior Cam Etzler drives to the hoop versus Lincolnview in this file photo. Etzler has averaged 14 points and 3.5 steals per game in two meetings with Wayne Trace this season. (TB file photo)
Crestview senior Cam Etzler drives to the hoop versus Lincolnview in this file photo. Etzler has averaged 14 points and 3.5 steals per game in two meetings with Wayne Trace this season. (TB file photo)
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
sports@timesbulletin.com
CONVOY — The Crestview Knights have allowed just 32 points per game since the second season began. A defense that has been the backbone of a 26-0 campaign has gotten better as the tournament has worn on.
On Tuesday night in Bowling Green, Crestview showed that its team defense could shut down an opponent with great skill and size inside. On Friday night, in the regional final, Crestview will take on a perimeter-oriented offense in Wayne Trace; one they have held to 88 points combined in two previous meetings this year.
“It will definitely be a fun one,” said Crestview senior Damian Helm following the Knights’ win on Tuesday that set the stage for round three with the Raiders. “They’re about 10-15 minutes away from us and we’re coming all the way up here (to Bowling Green), I’m sure it will be a great environment. It’s going to be one of those games that you’re never going to forget - regional final, a trip to state (on the line); it’s just going to be a tremendous atmosphere to be in.”
Crestview has been highly-touted all season, and it has handled all comers without a blemish. The bigger the game, the tougher the opponent, the better the Knights seem to respond. The senior-laden group remained calm in the face of constant pressure when they beat an outstanding Lima Central Catholic squad, they stood tall against the physically imposing Celina Bulldogs in a hostile environment, they twice defeated Wayne Trace.


Now, with a trip to state on the line, the Knights must remained focused on the task at hand and not look beyond the Raiders, which is something head coach Jeremy Best says shouldn’t be a problem for his team.
“They’ve been great,” Best said of his team’s ability to understand the task in front of them. “Some of this has carried over from their previous sports, from last baseball season or from the football season, so these kids have played in some big games. As we’ve moved into basketball season, they’ve embraced that and, I think it’s been beneficial.”
“Each game is its own entity, as is this game,” Best added. “This happens to be a regional final with two teams that are familiar with each other. That makes it probably a little more interesting.”
The Raiders come in playing their best basketball of the year. After dropping a game at Lincolnview on February 11, Wayne Trace has rattled off nine straight wins, out-scoring its opponent by nearly 17 point per game. Since the tournament began, Wayne Trace has given up just 38 points per night while scoring 59.5.
“They’re very good defensively, they cause all kinds of havoc with what they do with their zone, and they rely heavily on that zone to kick-start their offense, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us,” Best commented. “We know that, from a standpoint of executing offensively. They make it hard to get into any kind of a pattern of level of comfort. You have to make really good decisions against them.”
The key to the Raider offense is the play of freshman guard Ethan Linder and his brother, Corbin, a junior wing. Though the younger Linder was held to just 12 total points in two previous meetings with Crestview this season, he has twice scored at least 30 in a game this year, including Tuesday night’s win over Buckeye Central, when Ethan shot 11-for-14 from the field.
Corbin, a second-team all-district selection, is getting stronger by the day in his recovery from a late-season ankle injury. Finally returning to a starting role on Tuesday, Corbin was 11-for-18 shooting, including 6-for-12 from 3-point range, in racking up 32 points for the Raiders. He has made 5-of-12 3-point attempts in two games versus Crestview this season.
The on-ball pressure that Crestview prides itself on will again be put to the test non Friday night. In the two previous meetings, Crestview forced a total of 30 Wayne Trace turnovers, with Preston Zaleski collecting five steals and Cam Etzler getting seven swipes. Crestview, meanwhile, committed just 19 total turnovers in the two wins over the Raiders and coughed it up just three times in Tuesday night’s regional semi-final win over Ottawa Hills.
“If we turn it over, and we give them scoring chance opportunities in quick-change, that will not be good for us,” added the Knight head coach. “You can’t give teams points off your turnovers. Wayne Trace does a great job of converting your mistakes into points.”
Etzler has averaged 14 points per game in two meetings versus Wayne Trace this season while Damian Helm has posted games of 18 and 21 points in the two Knight victories.