BY SEAN LAFONTAINE

Times Bulletin Correspondent

sports@timesbulletin.com

PAULDING - The Paulding Panthers hosted the Crestview Knights Friday night in a key Northwest Conference showdown Friday. The game was close the entire night, with neither team taking a lead greater than seven points.

In the end, the Panthers hit a few key shots and made some big free throws down the stretch to defeat the Knights 47-44.

Midway through the second quarter, Paulding was up 14-10 when Alec Heffner hit a three for Crestview to pull them within one. Paulding answered with back-to-back baskets, a lay-up by Steven Strayer and then a three by Kyle Kauser. After a Crestview basket by senior Josh Ream, Kauser hit his second three in a row to put Paulding up 22-15, which was the largest lead of the night for either team.

Just before the buzzer to end the second quarter, Preston Zaleski hit a three for the Knights to get them back within four. Paulding held on to a 22-18 lead at halftime.

Crestview came out of the locker room and got off to a strong start in the second half. Alec Heffner hit two consecutive threes for the Knights and gave them a 24-22 lead. The teams went back-and-fourth throughout the third quarter.

With the Panthers up 31-27, Tyson Bolenbaugh put in a short shot to get the Knights within two. On the next possession Bolenbaugh was at the free throw line where he made the first and missed the second. On the miss, Zaleski pulled down the offensive rebound and put it back to give Crestview a 32-31 lead, which is where the third quarter ended.

With just under six minutes to go in the game, and the Knights leading 40-37, Julian Salinas hit a two for Paulding to pull within one. Both teams went on a scoring drought that lasted just under three minutes before Lance Foor hit two free throws to give Paulding the 41-40 lead.

Salinas followed with a basket on the next possession, putting Paulding up by three. Crestview answered with a basket by Josh Ream to pull within one, 43-42. The Knights fouled Kauser on the in-bounds pass. Kauser hit both of his free throws to push the lead back up to three. The Knights came away empty on their next possession and it looked like the Panthers were going to come away with the victory.

Neil Roehrig hit one of two to make the lead four, but Cam Etzler was fouled for the Knights on their next possession. He hit both free throws to cut the lead to two and keep the Crestview hopes alive. Crestview fouled Caleb Clemens who made one of two free throws, increasing the lead to three. After a miss by Crestview, Roehrig had a chance to put the game away, but missed both free throws. The Knights rebounded the second miss, but a three-quarter-court heave came up short, leaving the Panthers with the 47-44 victory.

Kauser led the way for the Panthers with 13 points on the night, and Salinas added 11 points.

The victory moves Paulding to 10-3 on the season, and 3-1 in the NWC.

"This was a good win for us, what a battle," said Paulding coach Shawn Brewer. "We would get up and they did a good job of coming right back at us, especially in the second half. Defensively I thought we played solid all night. I really thought the key was unforced turnovers. We had ourselves down for 10, which is our best effort on the season in that category. I'm really proud of the boys, we were patient offensively, got the looks we wanted and hit a high percentage. What a great win to beat a team like Crestview."

Alec Heffner led the scoring for the Knights with nine points, while Helm and Ream both added seven. A total of eight Knights reached the scoring column on the night.

The loss drops the Knights to 10-2 on the season, and 2-2 it the NWC.

"The things we pride ourselves in, loose balls, 50/50 balls, hustle plays - bounced their way," said Crestview coach Jeremy Best. "They put themselves in that position though. We missed some key check outs late and were weren't strong and smart with the ball in the first half, and I though our court awareness was poor. I love these kids, they will bounce back, I just didn't think we were real mentally in tune tonight."

Score by quarters

Paulding - 12 10 9 16 - 47

Crestview - 8 10 14 12 - 44

Paulding (47)

Vance 1-1 0-0 0-0 2, 1-2 3-6 2-2 13, Clemens 1-3 0-0 1-2 3, Foor 3-6 0-1 2-2 8, Salinas 4-5 0-0 3-3 11, Roehrig 0-1 0-0 1-4 1, Strayer 2-2 0-0 0-0 4, Schroeder 2-5 0-0 1-1 5

Crestview (44)

Zaleski 1-1 1-2 0-0 5, Etzler 0-4 0-0 4-6 4, Lautzenheiser 1-2 0-2 0-0 2, Helm 3-5 0-2 1-2 7, Brown 0-1 1-1 1-2 4, Heffner 0-0 3-6 0-0 4 9, Bolenbaugh 2-2 0-0 2-4 6, Ream 2-3 0-0 3-3 7

Three point baskets

Paulding: 3 (Kauser 3)

Crestview: 5 (Zaleski, Brown, Heffner 3)