SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor
CONVOY — Just like last season, it’s a Van Wert County rivalry game that has the potential to be a very entertaining one.
The Crestview Knights will open their season Friday night against the visiting Van Wert Cougars. Each team features four returning starters (including experienced point guards), size, length and athleticism, and both teams are considered legitimate contenders in their respective conferences.
When the two teams met during the 2016-2017 season, Van Wert rallied from an early eight point deficit and defeated the Knights 47-44.
The Cougars opened their new season last Saturday with a 50-42 win over Lincolnview. Jacoby Kelly led the team with 14 points, while 6-5 junior Blake Henry and 6-2 junior Nate Place had 13 and 12 points respectively.
Van Wert head coach Mark Bagley was pleased with the win, but said the focus this week has been getting better each day.
“Offensively, we have tried to clean up timing, execution, screening, and getting ready to shoot the ball,” Bagley explained. “We got to the line 28 times, but only made 17 so we have put our kids in different pressure situations both mentally and physically this week.”
“Defensively, we have focused on positioning and doing individual and team work reps,” Bagley added. “Repetition and practice is the best way to simulate a game.”
Meanwhile, the Knights have been preparing for the season opener. Crestview and Van Wert were scheduled to begin the season last Friday but the game and last Saturday’s contest against Miller City were pushed back due to the success of the football team.
“We are progressing just like any other team this time of year,” Crestview head coach Jeremy Best said. “We believe our guys are working hard and ready to begin our season and see where we are as a team.”
Best scouted Saturday’s Van Wert/Lincolnview game, and left the gym with some concerns.
“I was impressed with their speed, size and athleticism,” Best said. “They are very aggressive on both ends of the floor. They seem to have the ability to create some match up issues with their opponents as well.”
On the other side, Bagley believes the Knights will present a big challenge to the Cougars, as well as other teams throughout the season.
“They have the total package returning from a 17-7 district finalist team,” Bagley said. “10 guys will play, with many (of them) three-year starters. They have quickness, size, and strong athletes. Crestview is experienced at point guard with Drew Kline, shooting guard with Wade Sheets (6-2), a Division I player in Javin Etzler (6-7), and post presence with Derek Stout (6-4) plus many others who know their role.”
“It will be a great, tournament-like environment with two experienced teams,” Bagley added. “The little things will be the deciding factor in this game.”
Friday’s Crestview/Van Wert game will air live on WERT 1220AM and 104.3FM, and will stream live at www.thevwindependent.com.