BY JIM COX

Times Bulletin Correspondent

sports@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - It didn't come as easily as the won/lost records might have indicated, but Crestview held off Van Wert 44-34 Monday night in an intense intra-county rivalry game. The Lady Knights are now 14-1, the Lady Cougars 7-8.

The visitors threatened to pull away in the second quarter, but the hosts fought their way back in the third, only have it slip gradually away in the final stanza. Both defenses were stellar and typically physical, which had fans from both teams screaming at the officials even more than usual -- on every call and on many non-calls.

The two teams traded points in the first quarter, with Crestview sophomore Kennis Mercer banking in a three-pointer from out front at the buzzer to lead 9-8. The Knights extended their run to 11-0 by scoring the first eight points of the second quarter -- Mackenzie Riggenbach 15-footer from the right wing. Riggenbach 10-footer on an offensive rebound, Lindsey Motycka layup on a dandy baseline drive, and two free throws by Emily Bauer. Van Wert's Alexis Dowdy stopped that run with a 12-foot angle shot, but the Knights got the next six points on a 15-foot baseliner by Kirstin Hicks, two Riggenbach free throws, and a Riggenback jumper from the free throw area. That made it 23-10, and it looked like a rout might be underway. It wasn't.

The Cougars then went on a 10-2 run, straddling the halftime break. Hannah Hulbert started it with a breakaway layup on a pass from Erin Morrow. After Motycka banked in a 10-footer, Dowdy rattled in a three from up top to close it to 25-15 at the break. Oddly, Morrow, Van Wert's leading scorer, only got off one shot in the first half, and that was a 3/4-court heave at the buzzer. However, she started the third quarter by muscling in a layup and one. Alexa Dunlap's put-back made it 25-20, Knights, with 6:49 left in the third.

Motycka's steal and layup stopped the Cougar run, but Morrow canned a 12-foot baseliner (Kaitlynn Hall assist). Motycka's 17-footer from the right corner was trumped by a Cheyenne Handy layup (steal/assist by Hulbert). A Morrow free throw cut it to 29-25 at 1:56, which was as close as Van Wert would get. Mercer fed Mariah Henry for a layup at 0:05 to make it 31-25 after three.

Terra Crowle's layup (assist Mercer) and Emily Bauer's layup (assist Crowle) started the fourth quarter, giving the visitors a 35-25 lead, and Van Wert didn't get closer than eight after that, despite three Claire Butler field goals. Crestview held on via the free throw line, although hitting only 7 of 12 in the last eight minutes.

Both coaches were happy with their defenses. "I was pleased with our defense," said Crestview's Greg Rickard. "We did a good job when they did look to penetrate, helping on that. Our containment on the dribble was better tonight. We didn't get beat. Our posts did a good job of fighting inside. They (the Cougars) had some physical girls in the paint. I thought we did a good job of taking that away with lob help."

"I'm really proud of our effort," said Van Wert coach Lance Moonshower. "We definitely did not quit, went hard the whole game. We knew we needed to pressure their guards because they're really good, and not give them good looks into the post, and we did that. We didn't do a bad job defensively, but we just couldn't seem to do anything offensively. There were times when we needed to make a bucket, and we just couldn't quite get that bucket. We'd make a run, and we just couldn't quite get over the hump."

Rickard concurred with Moonshower's assessment of the Cougar defense. "They're quick and aggressive -- that's their game," he said. "They're gonna get after you on the perimeter, and they're not gonna let you just stand out there. When you're spread out like that and they're pressuring everybody, you're gonna have to look for some penetration because there's not gonna be a lot of help, or else look inside because there's not gonna be a lot of help. At times we handled it okay and got it into the paint, and at other times we didn't it handle it very well, dribbled too much and had some turnovers."

Crestview shot a solid 50 percent (16 of 32) from the field and 65 percent (11 of 17) from the foul line. Van Wert was 43 percent (13 of 30) on field goals and 67 percent (6 of 9) on free throws. The Lady Knights won the boards 19-11 and had one less turnover, 15-16.

Seven Knights played, and they all scored, led by Riggenbach, Motycka, and Mercer with 14, 8, and 8. Cougar scoring was led by Dowdy, Morrow and Claire Butler with 9, 8, and 8.

The Crestview junior varsity (9-5) won 23-12. Brady Guest had 12 points for the Knights. Kelsey Dotson, Domonique Grothause, and Emily Bair had four apiece for Van Wert (3-12). The Cougars were missing point guard Riley Jones, out with a back injury.

Score by quarters:

Van Wert 8 7 10 9 - 34

Crestview 9 16 6 13 - 44

Van Wert (34)

Hall 0 0-0 0, Dunlap 1 0-0 2, Claire Butler 4 0-0 8, Morrow 2 4-5 8, Dowdy 3 2-4 9, Hulbert 2 0-0 5, Handy 1 0-0 2, Livia Butler 0 0-0 0, Moonshower 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 6-9 34.

Crestview (44)

Mercer 2 3-4 8, Riggenbach 4 6-9 14, Bauer 1 2-2 4, Motycka 4 0-0 8, Hicks 1 0-0 2, Crowle 3 0-0 6, Henry 1 0-2 2. Totals 16 11-17 44.

Three-point field goals: Van Wert 2 (Dowdy, Hulbert), Crestview 1 (Mercer).