The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Mar. 21, 2023

Knights and Hawks to meet on Friday

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

If you listen to Crestview head coach Doug Etzler and Berlin-Hiland head coach Mark Schlabach, you’ll hear some differing statements. One coach had a number of returning starters when the season began, while the other said he didn’t have much experience coming back.

The one with the returning starters is Etzler, who has guided the Knights to a 24-3 record and the school’s fifth state tournament appearance.

“We had a lot of guys with some returning experience and some younger guys that had great JV seasons last year so the expectations were pretty high as far as what we thought we were capable of doing,” Etzler said during a statewide media teleconference held on Tuesday. “They stayed together all year and played very unselfishly, got things done in the tournament and played well enough to make it to this point.”

Wren Sheets is one of three Crestview starters averaging double figures per game. Bob Barnes/Van Wert independent

Schlabach, who has a career record of 500-103 (395-84 in 18 seasons at Berlin Hiland), has two state championships under his belt (2011, 2012), plus seven of the school’s 13 state tournament appearance. However, he claims he didn’t necessarily envision the Hawks (19-9) in this spot.

“Our season has been an interesting one and not necessarily a year where we expected to still be playing this late into the season, especially with how we were playing early in the season,” Schlabach said of his Hawks. “We were 8-9 at one point and not playing good basketball but we’ve gotten a little bit better and we’ve won 11 straight. We have a lot of young kids and kids that haven’t played varsity minutes before…I think it just took us a little longer to figure some things out.”

“I think we have gotten lucky along the way and we’ve scratched a few wins out late,” he added. “I’m not sure how good we are still but we’re still trying to get better and we’ve grown up and gotten tougher.”

It’s the fourth state tournament appearance in five seasons, and the Hawks finished as runners-up to Crestview in 2019.

Berlin Hiland breezed through sectionals, beating Newcomerstown 54-8 and Monroe Central 73-30. The rest of the tournament games have been close – 53-46 over Caldwell and 56-54 over Hannibal River in districts, and 55-51 over Federal Hocking and 52-50 over Westerville Northside Christian at regionals. The Hawks trailed 27-11 at halftime of the Northside Christian game.

At 17.2 points per game, 6-0 junior guard Sammy Detweiler is Berlin Hiland’s leading scorer. 6-7 junior center Alex Yoder is averaging 7.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. As a team, the Hawks average 52 points per game and give up 44 per outing.

“Offensively their dribble penetration is a concern,” Etzler said. “They really attack the basket and if you help they kick out for threes. Defensively they really pressure the ball. We will need to play physical offensively and make sure we catch the ball in our spots and attack their pressure.”

The No. 5 Knights had their own close calls in the tournament, notably a two overtime 63-61 win over Ottoville in the district championship game and a 41-40 win over Marion Local in the regional championship tilt. Offensively, the Knights remain as balanced as can be, with Wren Sheets averaging 10.4 points per game, Nate Lichtle 10.1 points, Gavin Etzler 10 points and Mitch Temple 9.4 points. Temple provided the winning basket against Ottoville and the winning free throw against Marion Local.

“They’re really good,” Schlabach said of the Knights. “They screen well and move as well as any high school team I’ve seen in a long time. They look like a college team with how they move without the ball and how hard they screen.

“They don’t rely on one guy or two guys, all five starters can score along with the guys they bring off the bench,” he continued. “They’re big and we have a huge size disadvantage against them. They’re a well oiled machine.”

When Crestview and Berlin Hiland met in the 2019 finals, the Knights cruised to a 58-38 win.

The two teams will tipoff at 5:15 p.m. Friday at UD Arena in Dayton, with the winner moving on to play No. 1 Richmond Heights or No. 6 Russia for the state championship at 2 p.m. Sunday.

POSTED: 03/15/23 at 3:44 am. FILED UNDER: Sports