SHELBY — Colonel Crawford saw their season come to an end with a 23-1 record Thursday night. The top-seeded Eagles fell to Willard 70-48 in the Division III district semifinals at Shelby High School.
Willard (19-5), the No. 3 seed, jumped out to a quick start, building a 23-8 lead over Colonel Crawford after a quarter. Junior Trey Paxton scored 15 of his 19 points in the opening quarter, hitting five 3-pointers.
“When Trey feels it, you have to let him go. It’s a players game and players have to go win a game,” said Willard coach Joe Bedingfield.
Colonel Crawford tried to run Paxton off the 3-point line multiple times, but the junior showed some unreal range and hit a couple of off-balance shots.
“We knew he had great range and he comes out and hits five threes in the first quarter,” said Colonel Crawford coach Dave Sheldon.
Myles Pinkston scored 22 points to lead the Flashes and brought a balanced scoring effort each quarter.
By halftime Colonel Crawford faced a 43-18 deficit.
“Their two players Pinkston and Paxton stepped up in a big game. That’s what it comes down to, who’s going to step up. By halftime it was out of hand, I’m just going to be honest with you,” Sheldon added.
Chase Walker did all he could to carry the Eagles. The senior scored 20 points to lead the way, 15 of which came after halftime.
“The one guy that attacked all night for us was Chase. Heck, he goes to the foul line 15 times. They just beat the heck out of him all night and he kept going and going,” Sheldon said of Walker.
Mason Studer and Carter Valentine were held to seven points each.
After three quarters it was 59-31 and Willard was able to control the ball and melt away clock for much of the fourth.
“I thought our kids did a nice job of getting out in transition. Hitting shots early on gave us confidence. We wanted to play with some space and pace. Colonel Crawford did such a good job last year of clogging the lane,” Bedingfield said of his team.
The Crimson Flashes victory on Thursday provided a measure of revenge after Colonel Crawford eliminated Willard on the same court in the 2020 district semifinal by a 59-55 count.
Willard, champion of the Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division, has now won nine consecutive games. Their last loss was a 50-43 setback against SBC rival Oak Harbor on Jan. 22.
The Flashes will face No. 2 seed Collins Western Reserve in the district championship game on Saturday at Shelby. Western Reserve handed Ashland Crestview an 87-53 defeat on Thursday.
The season comes to an end for Colonel Crawford, which captured a Northern 10 Athletic Conference title as well as a sectional championship.
“It’s a tough one to swallow because of the way it went right from the get go. In a couple weeks you’ll look back and say ‘what a ride it was,’” Sheldon added.
Sheldon paid tribute to the veteran players on the Eagles roster.
“You look back at my four seniors, Chase Walker has more wins in a four-year (period). He left it all on the line tonight,” Sheldon said. “You look at my other three seniors, Brock Ritzhaupt, Drayton Burkhart and Mason McKibben, they’re the reason we our where we are at because they understood their roles. Tonight wasn’t our night. Hats off to Willard that was a very good basketball game that they played.”
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