By ANDREW WILLIAMS
ELIDA — Most basketball coaches will tell you it’s the first four minutes of each half that are key to a team’s success.
Friday night at Elida Fieldhouse, Convoy Crestview proved it isn’t how you start but how you finish that matters most.
The Knights outscored Miller City 32-15 in the second and fourth quarters to run away with a 54-39 victory and earn a Division IV district title.
The No. 1-ranked Division IV team in the final Associated Press boys basketball poll, Crestview (25-0) will take on fifth-ranked Ottawa Hills (22-1) in an 8 p.m. regional semifinal contest Tuesday at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
The Green Bears defeated Toledo Christian 36-24 in a district final at Lakota Friday night.
Miller City and Crestview both stumbled through the first quarter, combining to make just 3 of 24 shots (11.5 percent). Crestview held a narrow 8-5 lead after the opening eight minutes.
The Knights found a groove though, and with Cam Etzler and Damian Helm each contributing five points, Crestview completed the first half on an 18-7 run to lead 26-12.
“We didn’t get off to the start that we had gotten off to our first two games,” Crestview coach Jeremy Best said. “I thought our kids, defensively, started to wear on them a little bit. We were able to extend there just before the half. Bottom line is it came down to us executing defensively and making shots when we needed to make shots.”
While the Knights didn’t exactly light it up in the first half (9 of 24, 37.5 percent), Miller City by comparison was far worse.
Despite getting plenty of touches in the paint and shots from point-blank range, the Wildcats finished the opening two quarters shooting only 4.8 percent (1 of 21) from the field. They were 0 of 7 from 3-point distance.
“We didn’t start off shooting the ball real well again tonight,”said Miller City coach Bryan Kuhlman
“They play that defense, that man-to-man, so sticky up on top. We had talked about it but until you’re actually out on the floor and you’re facing it and you’re seeing it live, you can’t review that on tape.”
The Wildcats weren’t ready to go quietly, though. They quickly forgot their shooting woes in the first half and came out firing in the second.
Corey Heuerman hit a 3-pointer on Miller City’s first possession of the third quarter, Adam Niese dropped in 10 points and Jacob Gerten punctuated a 19-14 run with a 3-pointer of his own to cut the Knights’ advantage down to 40-31.
“We finished the (first) half real good there to extend up to 12 or 14,” Best said. “The third quarter we kind of got in mud a little bit, but credit to them. They hit some shots. They couldn’t throw it in the ocean in the first half. I knew they were going to come out and continue to be the aggressor. They’re relentless. They just keep peppering you.”
“We talked about it at halftime that some of our shots we knew would start to fall,” Kuhlman said. “We were getting good looks. We came out, we got inside, we made some early baskets, picked up some momentum. We just aren’t deep enough, we’re not big enough. We ran out of gas. I was real happy with the effort our boys gave tonight. Our kids had a lot of fight in them. It just wasn’t enough.”
Connor Lautzenheiser and Helm started the fourth quarter with 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to push the lead to 46-31. Miller City had no answer down the stretch as the Knights closed the game with a 14-8 period to advance to the regional tournament for the first time in 11 years.
Helm finished with 21 points and five steals, Tyson Bolenbaugh notched 12 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks and Cam Etzler tallied nine points and eight assists for the Knights.
Niese led the Wildcats with 16 points and 10 boards, while Adam Drummelsmith added eight points.
It was the third consecutive district title game appearance for Crestview, which was defeated in the finals the previous two seasons. The Knights’ last regional appearance came in 2003 when they made it all the way to the state championship game before falling to Marion Local 62-46.
“It’s been awhile,” Best said. “We’re pleased to be heading back up north to BG. I know our community is extremely excited and they’ll be up there in full force.”
MILLER CITY (16-9)
Niese 4-11 8-8 16, Drummelsmith 1-7 6-8 8, Heuerman 2-10 1-2 6, Gerten 1-5 2-2 5, J. Lammers 2-6 0-0 4, M. Lammers 0-2 0-0 0, Kuhlman 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 10-41 17-20—39.
CONVOY CRESTVIEW (25-0)
Helm 6-11 5-5 21, Bolenbaugh 5-9 2-2 12, Etzler 4-9 1-2 9, Lautzenheiser 2-10 0-0 6, Rickard 2-3 0-0-6, Zaleski 0-1 0-0 0, Simerman 0-1 0-0 0, Jones -0 0-0 0, Rolston 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19-44 8-9—54.
Miller City 5 7 19 8 — 39
Convoy Crestview 8 18 14 14 — 54
3-Point GOALS: Miller City 2-16 (Niese 0-3, Drummelsmith 0-4, Heuerman 1-3, Gerten 1-3, J. Lammers 0-3); Convoy Crestview 8-18 (Helm 4-7, Etzler 0-1, Lautzenheiser 2-6, Rickard 2-3, Simerman 0-1).
rebounds: Miller City 25 (Niese 10, Heuerman 7); Convoy Crestview 34 (Bolenbaugh 13, Helm 6, Zaleski 6).
ASSISTS: Miller City 7 (Heuerman 3); Convoy Crestview 17 (Etzler 8, Helm 5).
STEALS: Miller City 3, Convoy Crestview 3.
BLOCKS: Miller City 2; Convoy Crestview 7 (Bolenbaugh 6).
TURNOVERS: Miller City 6, Convoy Crestview 9.
TOTAL FOULS: Miller City 14, Convoy Crestview 16.
FOULED OUT: None.