BY KEVIN WANNEMACHER
Times Bulletin Business Manager
BOWLING GREEN – They went into Friday’s regional championship as an underdog. While they didn’t pull off the upset, the Wayne Trace boys basketball team saw its season come to a close to a very, very good Crestview squad that remained unbeaten in 27 games this year with a 44-34 loss to the Knights.
Wayne Trace knew going into the regional title contest that a good start was pivotal to its success. However, it was the Knights who did just that, posting a 13-2 lead after one quarter, and the Raiders were never able to catch up from that early deficit.
It wasn’t due to a lack of effort though, pulling within 25-21 at the 4:21 mark of the third quarter. Three different times, Wayne Trace had an opportunity to cut into the deficit further but was unable to do so.
The Raiders expended lots of energy trying to rally from that early deficit and it was evident by the look of exhaustion of the faces of several Wayne Trace players near the end of Friday night’s game.
Crestview’s Damian Helm was once again a pivotal part of the Knights’ success. Helm scored 18 points in the first meeting between the two squads, leading to a 50-48 Crestview victory, before bucketing 21 in a 70-40 win on February 8.
Neither, though, was as pivotal as Friday night. With the Knight guards being held to a combined 11 points, it was Helm and senior Tyson Bolenbaugh who stepped up to combine for 29 points and 14 rebounds to send the squad from Convoy into Thursday’s Division IV Final Four.
For Wayne Trace, it closes what has been both a long and short basketball season.
Raider seniors Colby Speice, Devin Wenzlick and T.J. Blackmore officially started football practice on August 5, 2013. It began what turned into an outstanding year that lasted 15 weeks, culminating with a loss in the state championship game to undefeated Kirtland on December 6.
Because of the extended season on the gridiron, it also affected the basketball schedule in postponing three weeks of contests. Add to that time three weather postponements, making it made for a schedule of 22 regular season games in 64 days with virtually no break between sports.
Speice, Wenzlick and Blackmore conclude the basketball season having played a combined 42 games already this school year, advancing to the state championship in football and the elite eight on the basketball court. They have led both Raider squads to 22 victories in football over the past two seasons and 43 wins on the hardwood, posting back to back 20-win basketball seasons for the first time since the 1991-1992 seasons.
Speice wraps up the season averaging seven points and three boards a game while Wenzlick added six points and six boards per night. Blackmore also chipped in five points and three rebounds a contest.
While brothers Corbin and Ethan Linder have led the Raiders in scoring all season long, the reasons for this Raider team’s success also has been a group of role players.
Junior Corbin Linder ends the season averaging 14.9 points a night for Wayne Trace to top the Raider squad. His brother, freshman Ethan Linder completed his first year at the high school level by scoring 14.2 points a contest.
But, the Raiders have enjoyed contributions from players like junior David Sinn, sophomore Luke Miller and junior Jake Arend on different nights and in different ways
Friday night, it was a case of the Crestview defense shutting down the Wayne Trace offense at a time when it mattered most.
On the Wayne Trace side, though, last night’s loss bids adieu to a trio of seniors who have led the Raiders through a lot of success over the past two years.
This trio of seniors isn’t one of the most highly touted groups in Raider history. And this Raider team isn’t going to go down as one of the best teams in Wayne Trace history.
But, one thing is for sure. This Raider team has a lot of reasons to look back and be proud of what they accomplished. This squad recorded the 25th Green Meadows Conference championship to go along with the 20th sectional crown. They also claimed the tenth district title in Raider history.