By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The Crestwood boys basketball team’s ride home from Kirtland on Friday night was approximately 45 minutes.
Once the Red Devils returned to Mantua, there was still work to do, though: A trip into the gymnasium to cut down the nets to celebrate a historic night.
Crestwood defeated the Hornets, using a second-half comeback to do it, to earn the Chagrin Valley Conference championship.
The title is another chapter in a special season that has featured a rare turnaround.
Crestwood finished just 1-9 in league play a year ago, while posting a 5-17 record overall. Two years ago, the Devils were 0-10 in the CVC and 1-22 overall.
With Friday’s win at Kirtland, Crestwood remains an undefeated 9-0 in CVC play and are now 15-2 overall.
“Words can’t really express how incredibly proud I am of these kids,” veteran head coach Josh Jakacki said. “They were the brunt of many jokes two years ago and last year we couldn’t finish. They got into the lab in the off-season and worked their tails off. The amount of silent grind allows them to bring the noise now.”
Kirtland jumped out to a 24-17 lead after the first quarter and the Hornets’ lead held at 34-29 at halftime.
Crestwood began to turn things to its favor by winning the third quarter 19-11 to take a 48-45 lead going into the fourth quarter. Both teams scored 19 points in the final 8 minutes, with Crestwood making key stops down the stretch to secure the victory.
“This is such a selfless group,” Jakacki said. “The seniors have endured a lot, had roles change, yet still led this team and competed and pushed everyday in practice. Jimmy, Josh, Nate, Ty, Charlie are the veterans that believed. The youngsters might have carried a lot of the load, but this 2024 class will leave a lasting legacy.
“Tonight is a perfect example of how far we’ve come,” Jakacki added. “Last year, we lost eight games by six points or less and six games by four points or less. Tonight is another example that we have grown from our failures. The adversity hardened and toughened them up and the uncomfortableness of off-season and practice was a life lesson for all. They’ve got a lot to be proud of, with much more season left.”
Three Crestwood players reached double-digits, with junior Dekota Johnson leading the way with 19 points. James Durham hit for 15 points, while Brody Durham added 10 points.
Also contributing offensively were Steven Lincoln (9 points), Augie Schweickert (7 points) and Charlie Schweickert (7 points).
“We told the kids at last year’s banquet that they had a choice. We told them, ‘Either you’re on the train or you’re not.’ Well, the train is full.”