SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor
CONVOY — Jacoby Kelly scored 11 of his game high 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the Van Wert Cougars rallied for a thrilling 48-44 non-conference win over Crestview at Ray Etzler Gymnasium.
It was the season opener for Crestview (0-1), while Van Wert improved to 2-0.
With the Cougars trailing 38-32 to begin the fourth quarter, Kelly hit a basket and two free throws before picking up his fourth foul with 5:48 left in the period. After Van Wert went down 42-38, Kelly returned and promptly hit a three pointer from the right corner, then gave the Cougars the lead for good with a two point basket with 2:28 left in the game.
Kelly later hit two free throws, then freshman Owen Treece secured the victory for the Cougars by calmly hitting two more foul shots with less than eight seconds left.
When the dust settled, Van Wert outscored Crestview 15-6 in the fourth quarter. Except for two foul shots, the Knights didn’t score during the final 3:48 of the game.
“It was a multitude of things,” Crestview head coach Jeremy Best said. “On offense we got a little stagnant and we didn’t execute some things on both ends either from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint.”
“Defensively I thought we did a good job in some situations, but obviously Jacoby Kelly was the difference maker,” Best added.
Van Wert opened the game with an 8-0 run, with Blake Henry hitting two treys, and Kelly scoring from two point range. But by the 3:09 mark, Nate Place and Henry each had two personal fouls.”
“We had to sub like crazy,” Van Wert head coach Mark Bagley said of the early foul situation. “It was smoke and mirrors for a while, and we had to ride the storm.”
Crestview got on the board with two free throws by Javin Etzler. The 6-7 junior then drilled a three point basket to trim Van Wert’s lead to 8-5. The Knights went on to take a 12-11 lead late in the opening stanza, but Nate Place hit a shot at the buzzer to give the Cougars a 13-12 lead at the end of the period.
The second quarter was a defensive struggle. Kelly picked up his second foul 90 seconds into the period. Wade Sheets then scored six consecutive points – two free throws and consecutive baskets to give Crestview an 18-13 advantage. After a Van Wert time out, Jonathan Lee hit a bucket, then Henry hit two free throws to pull the Cougars to within one. However, Etzler drilled a 10-foot fade away jumper from the baseline to beat the halftime buzzer and give the Knights a 20-17 halftime lead.
Sheets hit the first basket of the third quarter, then later in the period back-to-back baskets by the 6-2 junior gave the Knights their biggest lead, 33-24.
Sheets finished with 15 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
“We got in some foul trouble with him, and he needs to learn to play with a little more awareness in those situations,” Best said. “He plays hard and he hustles, but we need to be sure we’re making good decisions and not giving fouls, because you only get five of those a night,”
As a team, Van Wert went 13 of 15 from the foul line, which was marked improvement over the season opener against Lincolnview.
“We spend a lot of time (in practice) on pressure free throws,” Bagley explained. “We put them in pressure situations like tonight, up two, up three, down two.”
“The fans got their money’s worth,” Bagley added. “I’m really proud of our team. It was a game of runs, and our team was able to make the last run.”
Crestview will host Parkway tonight, while Van Wert will begin Western Buckeye League play at Wapakoneta on Friday.
Crestview: Wade Sheets 6-2-15; Javin Etzler 5-4-15; Drew Kline 1-0-2; Derek Stout 1-0-2; Brett Schumm 2-0-5; Grant Schlaugbaum 0-2-2; Derick Dealey 0-1-1; Trevor Gibson 1-0-2
Van Wert: Nate Place 4-4-12; Jacoby Kelly 7-5-21; Owen Treece 0-2-2; Jonathan Lee 1-0-2; Blake Henry 2-2-8; Drew Bagley 1-0-3
JV: Van Wert won 53-37