NORTH ROBINSON — Colonel Crawford won its season-opening game for the 11th consecutive year, posting a 52-28 victory against local rival Crestline on Wednesday night at Mac Morrison Gymnasium. It also marked the third consecutive season that the Eagles (1-0) have defeated the Bulldogs in the opening game.
After a tightly contested first quarter that saw the Eagles take an 18-11 lead, Colonel Crawford locked down defensively and outscored the Bulldogs 34-17 over the final three periods. Crestline (0-1) took a deliberate approach on offense, holding the ball as they attempted to limit the number of possessions for Colonel Crawford. The strategy worked for much of the first period before the Eagles made adjustments.
The game was tied 6-6 after Crestline senior Lucas Cochran knocked down a pair of free throws with 4:30 to play in the first period. However, Colonel Crawford began to pull away after that as junior Braxton Baker and sophomore Trevor Vogt hit consecutive three-point field goals and senior Carter Valentine connected on a jump shot to push the Eagles lead to 14-6.
Crestline senior Josh Hall drilled a three-point shot to cut the deficit to 14-9, but Eagles senior Mason Studer made two free throws that gave his side a 16-9 cushion. Cochran hit a shot to pull the Bulldogs to within five points at 16-11, but Studer dropped in a shot as the buzzer sounded to put the Eagles ahead by eight points at the end of the first period.
The complexion of the game changed drastically in the second and third periods as Colonel Crawford clamped down defensively. The Eagles held Crestline to just four points in the second quarter and only three points in the third period on the way to the victory.
“I give (Crestline head coach Tyler Sanders) credit, he tried to keep his kids in the game and he did early,” Eagles head coach David Sheldon said. “Credit to our guys, we just never lost our composure. We maintained. When you’ve got a 10, 15-point lead in that kind of game, it’s like a 30-point lead because of the time. I thought in the second half we made a good adjustment. We went to our 2-3 zone spreading it and we got them to take quicker shots so they couldn’t just hold the ball.
“I told our guys, ‘That’s gonna happen. When you’re a good team, people want to shorten the game.’ And that’s what they tried to do tonight. Bottom line, we got a win by 24 points and that’s what you’ve gotta do on opening night.”
Studer asserted his dominance early in the game, knocking down a three-point shot for the game’s first points on his way to a game-high 24 points. He finished with nine total field goals (two three-pointers) and was 4-for-4 at the foul line.
After a slow start, Valentine finished with 11 points, nine of which came in the second half. He had five rebounds.
Baker added seven points and Vogt tallied five points for the Eagles.
Junior forward Jacob Maddy turned in a dominating performance on the boards at both ends of the floor in his first varsity start. He collected 17 rebounds, including six on the offensive end. Maddy scored five points.
“Jake Maddy did an outstanding job rebounding,” Sheldon said. “He gets paid to go get it and he was flying. First half, I had him for double-figure rebounds. That’s a guy that’s buying into his role as a junior. You always need guys to buy into their roles and we’ve always been big about that in this program. We tell him, ‘Every shot is a pass to you; go get on the glass.’ He did an outstanding job all night.”
Colonel Crawford outrebounded Crestline, 29-16.
Cochran and Hall each scored nine points to pace Crestline. Cochran had seven points in the first half. Hall scored five of his nine in the first half. Cochran also had three rebounds.
Senior R.J. Johnston added seven points, scoring six points in the fourth quarter alone. He grabbed four rebounds.
Senior Conner Lusk finished with three points.
“We did have a good start. They did what Crawford does,” Crestline head coach Tyler Sanders said. “We did a great job limiting Carter in the first half. I thought that we battled hard. He’s an incredible player. I’ve said that they have the one and two best players (Valentine and Mason Studer) in the area, any division, hands down. It’s not even close. They’ve got a really good chance at running their schedule probably like last year and winning the N10. It’s just a really good program.
“So for us to go and compete as hard as we did, regardless of the score, I thought from first quarter to the fourth quarter, we played hard and never put our heads down. That was key. I’m proud of the way our guys played tonight.”
Colonel Crawford hits the road for three consecutive games beginning Saturday at Kenton. The Eagles play at Northmor on Monday and then open Northern 10 Athletic Conference play on Saturday, Dec. 4 at Buckeye Central.
Crestline will be back in action on Saturday against another Crawford County rival when Buckeye Central pays the Bulldogs a visit.