GALION — With the beginning of the postseason just a few days away, Crestline and Galion went head-to-head in a playoff-type atmosphere on Friday evening.
After cruising to a big early lead, the Bulldogs (12-9) had to hold off a Galion rally to earn a 60-49 victory.
Crestline coach Tyler Sanders said the game against Galion will serve as a primer for his ballclub ahead of their sectional tournament game on Wednesday against New London.
“There was like 50 fans here because of COVID, but it felt like a tournament atmosphere with as wild as it was,” said Sanders. “Especially with (Galion guard Rece) Payne hitting those crazy shots late, Galion got more and more amped as the game went on. It gave us that tournament feel and it really opened up our eyes to just how poorly we handled the ball late. At times it’s been a problem, but then we’ll go through three or four games when we clean it up. It’s good that we can go back to revisit that and get ready for the tournament.”
Crestline’s Brock Noblit and Galion’s Rece Payne put on an outstanding show for the small but vocal crowd in attendance. Noblit finished with a game-high 28 points and Payne poured in 25 points. Both players were deadly from 3-point range with Payne connecting on six triples and Noblit knocking down five.
Noblit accounted for all 18 points the Bulldogs scored in the third quarter and 22 points total in the second half. Payne tallied 17 points in the second half to help fuel a Galion rally.
The Bulldogs rolled out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter and led by as many as 15 points on three occasions in the first half. Galion pieced together an 8-2 run late in the second period to pull to within 30-21 at halftime.
Thanks to Noblit’s hot shooting, Crestline outpaced Galion 18-12 in the third period to build a 48-33 cushion heading into the final quarter. After falling behind by as many as 19 points early in the fourth period, the Tigers closed the gap to eight points, 57-49, in the final two minutes of the game, but were unable to complete the comeback.
“I thought we did a good job of coming back,” Galion coach Bobby Gossom said. “If we go back two, three, four weeks ago, we would’ve folded and kind of just quit. But we didn’t. I’m real proud of the guys. They fought back and kept battling and we got back into it. But anytime you get down by that much to start the game out, it’s tough to use that amount of energy to get back into the game, and I thought that hurt us at the end.”
Conner Lusk scored nine points and Ethan Clark tallied eight points for Crestline. Calvin Reed had five points while Hunter Lawhorn and Lucas Cochran scored four points each. Isaiah Perry added two points.
Cooper Kent scored eight points for Galion. Hanif Donaldson and Troy Manring added six points apiece. Brayden Eckels and Hudson Miller chipped in two points each.
The win ensured back-to-back winning seasons for Crestline for the first time 1993-94 and 1994-95. The Bulldogs 12 wins in 2020-2021 matches their win total from 2019-2020.
Crestline finishes up the regular season on Saturday at Loudonville. The Bulldogs are seeded seventh in the Division IV Willard District and will play host to No. 10 New London at 7 p.m. on Wednesday evening. The winner plays at No. 3 Norwalk St. Paul on Feb. 26.
Galion (0-21) plays at Ontario on Saturday in the regular season finale. The No. 11 seed Tigers play at No. 3 Norwalk on Tuesday in the opening game of the sectional round of the Division II Ashland District. The winner will face No. 4 Upper Sandusky on Feb. 26.