Crestview junior Drew Kline (10) drives past Ottoville senior Ryan Bendele (3) during a Division IV boys district semifinal game at Elida on Tuesday night. The Knights survived with a 72-67 win in double overtime. (Image courtesy Wyatt Richardson)
Crestview junior Drew Kline (10) drives past Ottoville senior Ryan Bendele (3) during a Division IV boys district semifinal game at Elida on Tuesday night. The Knights survived with a 72-67 win in double overtime. (Image courtesy Wyatt Richardson)
ELIDA — It may not be an understatement to say that Crestview’s Division IV district semifinal game against Ottoville at the Elida Fieldhouse on Tuesday night was the game of the year in high school basketball in this region.

In an epic battle of wills, the top-seeded Knights avenged an early-season loss and eliminated the Big Green with a 72-67 win in double overtime.

It took some late-game heroics to keep Crestview’s season alive. After leading throughout the game, the Knights (21-3) found themselves staring up at a 3-point deficit with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation. Javin Etzler misfired on a 3-pointer, but junior guard Derick Dealey chased down a long rebound and fed Etzler again, whose second try was good to force overtime with the game knotted at 48-48.

In the first extra session, the Knights needed more clutch shooting. Ottoville twice built leads of five points late in the first overtime, but Crestview again came back. Freshman Kalen Etzler drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 25 seconds left to get Crestview to within 58-57, but Ottoville extended the lead again with a pair of free throws from freshman Josh Thorbahn. It was then that junior point guard Drew Kline took matters into his own hands. Kline crossed over his defender and fired a step-back 3-pointer from the top of the arc with 11 seconds on the overtime clock to tie the game at 60 and bring the game to a second extra session.

“Drew is a competitor. Our guys make mistakes, but you have to sometimes look the other way because of the unbelievable competitive spirit these guys showed down the stretch,” Crestview head coach Jeremy Best said. “I was really sure where we were going to go [offensively]; I thought we were dead in the water a couple of times, but we just kept hitting some big shots.”

As they did in each of the previous two periods, the Big Green put themselves in position to win late, as Thorbahn started the second overtime with a trey, then made it a 6-4-62 Ottoville lead from the free throw line. Kalen Etzler scored on a short jumper to re-tie the game at 64, and the Knights wound up getting the better of what became a free throw shooting contest down the stretch. Senior forward Trevor Gibson sank the second of his two free throws with 10.9 seconds to go to give the Knights a 4-point cushion and wrap up the win.

“Javin hit big shots, Kalen hit big shots, Derick Dealey hit some free throws, Trevor [Gibson] hit one huge free throw; I said ‘just one, Trev, just one,’ and he got it for us,” Best said. “Ottoville is a great team… What a basketball game.”

For the bulk of regulation, the average spectator would have never guessed the game would become a classic. Crestview raced out to a 15-3 lead early in the second quarter, and Ottoville played most of the game without standout freshman Ryan Suever, who left the game early on with an injury and did not return. Senior guard Ryan Bendele and his five classmates made sure the Big Green did not go down without a fight.

Bendele spearheaded a Big Green comeback with a fastbreak bucket to stop the bleeding early in the second, and threes by Nick Moorman and Logan Kemper pulled the Big Green to within 23-18 at halftime. The Green kept coming in the third quarter, as a Bendele trey made it a 4-point deficit and the Green eventually got to within one, but Crestview, and Javin Etzler, responded. Etzler canned a pair of third-quarter treys and the Knights led 36-29 with only eight minutes in regulation.

Crestview built its lead to 41-31 with 6:34 left in the forth quarter, forcing an Ottoville timeout. Again, Bendele stepped up. He drilled a three from the left wing with 5:58 to play before Kemper scored in the low post. After a Derek Stout bucket at the other end, Moorman made it 43-38 with a driving hoop for the Green. Two possessions later, Bendele hit from beyond the arc again to get his club to within three. After a Knights turnover, Bendele made a pair of free throws, but the Knights led by two with only 44 seconds left.

Crestview had possession of the ball, but the inbounds pass was stolen by Bendele, who turned and drilled a 3-pointer that gave the Big Green their first lead of the game at 46-45. He then extended the lead to 48-45 at the free throw line before Javin Etzler’s late triple forced the first overtime.

“Unfortunately, it was us [who came out on the losing end]. That was probably the best game I’ve ever watched, coached or played in,” said Ottoville head coach Keith Utendorf. “We faced a lot of adversity….to figure that out and continually come back and come back and come back, that’s a testament to those kids –not only the work ethic, the leadership and the diligence of just staying at the task of doing everything they can to try to be there for their teammates. I can’t thank them enough.”

Javin Etzler finished with a game-high 24 points, including 18 after halftime. Derek Stout added 14 points before fouling out, and Drew Kline scored 12 points with 6 assists. Kalen Etzler finished with 8 points, and Dealey scored 9.

Ottoville was led by Bendele’s 21 points. Thorbahn added 17 and Moorman scored 13 to go with a game-high 9 rebounds.

“[Bendele] is one who can get hot really quick and start making shots,” Utendorf said. “He kept us afloat a long time, and then put us over the top. I thought he had done enough to put us up for good and then things just kind of happened. But he did such a great job; he was probably not necessarily expecting to carry the burden, but to respond the way he did was awesome.”

The Knights will return to the Fieldhouse for a 7 p.m. tip-off on Friday night against Hicksville. The Aces ousted Wayne Trace in Friday’s second game, winning 54-41.

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OTTOVILLE (67)

Ryan Bendele 6-14 4-5 21, Logan Kemper 2-8 4-4 9, Drew Fisher 3-5 0-1 6, Keagan Leis 0-0 0-0 0, Nick Moorman 4-11 4-6 13, Zane Martin 0-3 0-0 0, Joshua Thorbahn 4-14 8-10 17, Ryan Suever 0-1 1-2 1, Andy Schimmoeller 0-1 0-0 0, Dalton Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Jaden Schnipke 0-0 0-0 0,Joseph Miller 0-0 0-0 0; Totals 19-57 21-28 67

CRESTVIEW (72)

Wade Sheets 1-7 0-1 2, Drew Kline 5-8 1-2 12, Javin Etzler 7-14 3-6 24, Derek Stout 7-10 0-1 14, Derick Dealey 1-3 6-8 9, Jace Vining 1-5 0-0 2, Trevor Gibson 0-1 1-2 1, Grant Schlagbaum 0-1 0-0 0, Kalen Etzler 2-2 3-4 8; Totals 24-52 14-24 72

Ottoville 3 15 11 19 12 7 - 67

Crestview 11 12 13 12 12 12 - 72

3-point field goals: Ott 8-26 (Bendele 5, Thorbahn, Moorman, Kemper), Cvw 10-21 (Jetzler 7, KEtzler, Kline, Dealey); Rebounds: Ott 42 (Moorman 9), Cvw 33 (JEtzler 7); Assists: Ott 12 (Thorbahn 5), Cvw 13 (Kline 6), Turnovers: Ott 19, Cvw 17; Blocked shots: Ott 8 (Thorbahn 4), Cvw 9 (Sheets/KEtzler 3); Fouls: Ott 23, Cvw 25; Technical foul: Cvw (illegal substitution)