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Girls Basketball: Crestview punches ticket to Dayton

Mar. 9—ELIDA — On Saturday afternoon at the Elida Fieldhouse, Crestview did to Columbus Grove exactly what it's done to opponents all season long.

The Knights smothered the Bulldogs on defense, forcing key offensive players to take difficult shots, and they used every turnover as an opportunity to get a quick score.

That's precisely what turned a close first-half battle between conference title winners into a resounding 53-29 victory for the regional champion Crestview Knights.

Crestview's trip to the state tournament in Dayton is its first since the 2021 season, when the current group of seniors made it as freshmen.

"These girls have enjoyed the process in order to get back to this point," Crestview coach Mark Gregory said. "The bus trips, the practices, all the things that we've done together over these years have been special. Those are the moments that these girls are going to remember. They'll remember all the time they've spent together and how hard they worked as a team to get here."

Columbus Grove led 11-9 at the end of the first quarter. Kaci and Cali Gregory led Crestview on an 8-0 run to open the second quarter, but the Bulldogs countered with five straight points from Allison Thompson.

Cali Gregory and Lauryn Auchmuty then traded scores to make it 20-18 Crestview with a minute to go.

Both sidelines agreed that what happened in the final seconds of the first half was the true "backbreaker" in the game.

As Crestview held the ball to get the final quality shot of the half, Ellie Kline found herself with space at the top of the key where she preceded to knock down a three with five seconds left, sending the Knights to the locker room with a five-point lead.

"There wasn't a bigger shot than that one for us today," coach Gregory said. "Going up five instead of being up two is huge, and that gave us momentum for the third quarter. We used that to go on a run, and we had them questioning themselves after that."

Columbus Grove coach Brian Schroeder said, "We had some good energy early, but Kline's shot at the end of the second quarter really hurt us. The third quarter turned into a buzz saw for us. Once you get yourself into a hole against a tough team like that, it's really hard to get yourself out of it."

Kline's first-half dagger shifted the momentum entirely.

Crestview outscored Columbus Grove 30-11 in the second half, starting with the first 13 points of the third quarter.

Cali and Kaci Gregory combined for 14 of Crestview's 18 points in the third, building the deficit to 41-27. Cali Gregory led all scorers with 17 points. She also grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. Kaci Gregory hit a pair of threes and added 12 points.

Lauryn Auchmuty led Columbus Grove in scoring with 12 points, hitting 5 out of 10 shots. Auchmuty scored eight points in the first quarter but had trouble evading Crestview's defense for the rest of the game.

"We knew we couldn't let her score 30 today," Gregory said of Auchmuty. "I think we did a great job of always talking and always knowing where she was going to keep her from having a normal day. We also forced other players to shoot the ball in uncomfortable situations."

Crestview made 22 of its 35 shot attempts to finish 62 percent from the field. Columbus Grove hit 13 of 36 shots for 36 percent. The Knights also held a 21-13 advantage in rebounding but lost the turnover battle 13-11.

The Knights' first game in Dayton is scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m. They'll take on Fort Loramie, the same team they matched up with in the 2021 state semifinals.

"This week is going to be all about preparation for us," Gregory said. "Once we get done enjoying this one tonight, it's back to work. We're so excited to still be playing basketball in March. There's nothing better than playing the last week of the season."

Crestview 53, Columbus Grove 29

Score by quarters:

Columbus Grove 11 7 9 12 — 53

Crestview 9 14 18 2 — 29

COLUMBUS GROVE

Lauryn Auchmuty 12, Ruth Myers 5, Allison Thompson 5, Nicole Nesby 3, Kendal Palte 2, Abby Stechschulte 2, Totals: 13-1-29

CRESTVIEW

Cali Gregory 17, Kaci Gregory 12, Ellie Kline 8, Myia Etzler 6, Josie Kulwicki 4, Kennedy Crider 4, Lillie Best 2, Totals: 22-2-53

Three-point goals: CG — Auchmuty 2, Myers 2, Thompson 1; CV — C Gregory 3, K. Gregory 2, Kline 2

Records — Columbus Grove 21-6; Crestview 26-2

Reach Chris Howell at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter at @Lima_Howell