Crestview’s Grant Schlagbaum (25) blocks the shot of St. John’s junior Connor Hulihan (15) during the Division IV district championship game at the Elida Fieldhouse on Friday night. In a physical battle, it was St. John’s that claimed a 48-36 win and a berth in next week’s Regionals. (DHI Media/John Parent)
Crestview’s Grant Schlagbaum (25) blocks the shot of St. John’s junior Connor Hulihan (15) during the Division IV district championship game at the Elida Fieldhouse on Friday night. In a physical battle, it was St. John’s that claimed a 48-36 win and a berth in next week’s Regionals. (DHI Media/John Parent)
ELIDA — For the third time in five years, Delphos St. John’s will play in the Regionals.

Senior Owen Rode scored 14 points and grabbed a team-high 9 rebounds while classmate Tim Kreeger had 14 points and 7 boards. The Blue Jays held Crestview to 35 percent shooting in a 48-36 victory.

“It’s a great feeling. March is a great month if you enjoy basketball,” St. John’s head coach Aaron Elwer said. “The ultimate goal is to play here in the middle of March on a Friday night, and the goal is to win a district championship. I’m extremely proud of where our program is and what these (players) have done for us.”

Three of Rode’s buckets came during a personal 7-2 run in the middle of the third quarter as the Jays pushed what was a 2-point advantage to a 31-24 lead.

“I’m proud of Owen; he’s got a high, high ceiling, he’s a really good athlete and a good player,” Elwer said. “He’s a kid who works really hard. Tonight, on a big stage, I’m really happy for Owen.”

Rode hit 6 of 7 shots from the field, getting easy looks thanks to the deft passing of Kreeger. Though Crestview often used a single defender, as the focal point of the Jays’ offense, Kreeger routinely found open teammates whenever the Knights brought an extra man at the 6-8 center.

“That’s where they get you; they have the ability to shoot the ball and stretch the floor,” Crestview head coach Jeremy Best said. “(Kreeger) is really an extension of a point guard. It’s nothing new: teams are going to try to double him, but we tried to play him straight up because you can’t give them space on the perimeter. They have three or four guys who can shoot the three. He’s a very good player; he finds cutters, he finds shooters, but I would defend that way again if we played them tomorrow.”

St. John’s (19-4) played its customary hard-nosed defense during what was a physical test for both teams. The Jays put the less experienced Knights in difficult situations from the opening tip, forcing five first quarter turnovers for a team that averaged only nine per game coming in.

“It was a tough, physical game. St. John’s did things to us that we really couldn’t counter,” Best said. “You could say we didn’t play well, but it was more that (St. John’s) played better. We have five turnovers in the first quarter, that’s typically not what we do. That’s a credit to St. John’s.”

Despite the early struggles on offense for Crestview, however, it took a Kreeger fadeaway jumper at the halftime buzzer to put St. John’s ahead at 22-20 at the break. To that point, the Knights had held the Blue Jays to 9 of 26 shooting and Kreeger was just 4 of 12.

“Things weren’t falling as much as I would like tonight, but I felt good distributing to my teammates,” Kreeger said. “They were shooting the ball well and we had good chemistry.”

“We felt really good to only be down two at half,” Best said. “We fought. Our kids fought, and we have all year.”

In the fourth quarter, needing to find a way to create offense, Crestview was instead called for two consecutive offensive fouls and committed a turnover on the next trip, helping St. John’s burn nearly three minutes off the clock. A Derick Dealey 3-pointer gave the Knights some hope at 40-36, Jays, with 2:03 to play, but two more turnovers late and a parade of Blue Jay free throws sealed the game.

The Blue Jays will play the 8 p.m. game at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center on Tuesday evening. Crestview’s season comes to a close with a record of 17-7. It was the final game for seniors Spencer Rolsten and Caleb Bagley.

“I think our kids learned a lot about respecting the process of a season, and respecting the process of preparing for games and practicing hard,” Best said. “I think some of these young kids grew in that area. Our two seniors did a good job of leading for us. I give those guys a lot of credit; with only two seniors those guys are asked to do a lot from a leadership standpoint, and I hope our young guys respect that.”

***

ST. JOHN’S (48)

Tim Kreeger 6-17 2-2 14, Owen Rode 6-7 2-4 14, Jared Wurst 1-5 1-3 4, Josh Warnecke 2-3 0-0 4, Collin Will 0-1 3-4 3, Robby Saine 0-0 0-0 0, Richard Cocuzza 2-3 4-4 9, Connor Hulihan 0-4 0-0 0, Jacob Hellman 0-0 0-0 0; Totals 17-40 12-17 48

CRESTVIEW (36)

Wade Sheets 3-7 0-0 7, Drew Kline 3-8 1-3 8, Javin Etzler 3-9 0-0 6, Derek Stout 2-6 0-0 4, Spencer Rolsten 0-6 0-0 0, Brett Schumm 1-2 1-2 3, Derick Dealey 1-2 0-0 3, Grant Schlagbaum 2-2 0-0 5, Trevor Gibson 0-0 0-0 0, Caleb Bagley 0-1 0-0 0; Totals 15-43 2-5 36

St. John’s 11 11 13 13 - 48

Crestview 9 11 9 7 - 36

3-point field goals: DSJ 2-9 (Wurst, Cocuzza), Cvw 4-14 (Dealey, Sheets, Kline, Schlagbaum); Rebounds: DSJ 29 (Rode 9), Cvw 25 (Stout/Etzler 6); Assists: DSJ 7 (Kreeger 5), Cvw 6 (Sheets 2); Turnovers: DSJ 9, Cvw 15; Fouls: DSJ 13, Cvw 17