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Crestwood’s historic season ends in sectional-final loss to Smithville

Crestwood’s historic season ends in sectional-final loss to Smithville


By Tom Nader

Publisher and Editor

If only Crestwood could have bottled its offensive energy from the first 4 minutes of Friday’s sectional final.

In those opening moments, the Devils’ offense was free flowing and junior Dekota Johnson was red-hot. The sharp-shooter buried his first four 3-pointers, with each one coming with a higher degree of difficulty.

Johnson’s fourth bulls-eye came after he caught the ball on the left wing, took one dribble to his right and pulled up in rhythm. It forced Smithville coach Corey Kaufman to call a timeout.

With 3:10 showing on the first-quarter clock, Crestwood had made six of its first eight shots, led 16-4 and seemed on an uncatchable offensive trajectory.

Crestwood’s Dekota Johnson drives against Smithville defender Evan Steiner during the second half of Friday’s Division III sectional championship in Mantua.
Sheila Mathers/Special to Portage Sports

After Kaufman’s timeout, though, the Smithies (seeded 25th) quickly flattened that trajectory, made the next 29 minutes an offensive struggle for the Devils and eventually escaped with a 42-39 upset victory over the third-seeded Red Devils in a Division III tournament matchup.

The loss ended a historic season for Crestwood, which went from being the last place team in the Chagrin Valley Conference the previous two seasons to winning the league championship and winning 19 games this year.

“Tonight, obviously, was not the outcome we wanted and not how we thought our season was going to end, but I am so unbelievably proud of our entire team, especially our seniors,” Crestwood head coach Josh Jakacki said. “They put in so much intentional work to put themselves in a position to accomplish what they did this year, to play and win meaningful games. I love these kids so much. Every player had a role, an important role that meant so much to the team, and, honestly, I just feel bad for them right now. I hurt for them.”

After the Red Devils’ hot 6-for-8 start, they made only 8-of-37 shots (22 percent) the rest of the way. The 16-4 lead was erased by a 13-0 Smithies run that bridged the first and second quarters.

At one point during the run, the Devils went 8 minutes and 13 seconds without scoring.

Even still, the Red Devils had multiple chances to win Friday’s game.

As good as Smithville’s defense was, Crestwood’s defense was just as smothering, with Augie Schweickert, Brody Durham and Johnson hounding the Smithies the full length of the court.

Eight lead changes in the second half set the stage for a 37-37 score that remained deadlocked for more than 4 minutes — as each fatigued team combined to miss a variety of makeable shots, but also dig deep to play plus-level defense.

The Smithies were the first to break their scoring drought, which also broke the tie, on a driving layup by Evan Steiner with 1:35 left. The bucket gave Smithville (9-14) a 39-37 lead. He was also fouled on the shot, but he missed his free throw.

A missed 3 by Crestwood on the other end was rebounded by the Smithies. Crestwood fouled to stop the clock, which sent 6-foot-4 Quinn Maibach to the line, where he split a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 40-37.

On the other end, Johnson was fouled with 29.8 seconds to play and sank both of his attempts to make the score 40-39. The Devils again put Smithville on the line, this time it was Dawson Young who split a pair to make the score 41-39.

On Crestwood’s next possession, the team’s accelerated motion offense opened up a lane down the middle of the key, but a driving layup caromed off the rim and was rebounded by Maibach, who was fouled again. Once more, he split the pair of free throws to keep Crestwood within one possession at 42-39 with 15.7 seconds remaining.

Crestwood called timeout and designed a play that featured some scissor action to try to free up shooters, but the Smithies had one more stop in them. They defended the play well and the Devils were forced to scramble to create a 3-point shot, which eventually came from the top of the arc and hit the left of the rim to end the game.

“Unfortunately, tonight was not our night and not our moment,” Jakacki said. “Give credit to Smithville, though, they were the better team tonight. They scouted us well, and we knew they would be a tough out. We knew that their record was deceiving.”

Jakacki credited Smithville’s aggressive perimeter defense, but also admitted that he thought his team left some points off the scoreboard that they have consistently shown to finish on most any other night this season.

“It just seemed like there was a lid on the basket tonight,” Jakacki said. “I thought we did a nice job of getting downhill, I thought we were creating off hard cuts and were still getting really good shots. They just didn’t want to go in tonight and when you miss that many layups, in a tight game like tonight, it hurts.”

Johnson led all scorers in the game with 25 points. He finished 9-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range and hit 3-of-4 free throws. He added five rebounds. Brody Durham added high points and six assists for the Red Devils, who finished the year at 19-4 overall.

Smithville’s offensive leader was Maibach, a junior, who had 16 points to go with his game-high 16 rebounds. Steiner had nine points and Ethan Pritt added eight points for the Smithies.

Smithville advances to the district final to play eighth-seeded Canton Central Catholic, which will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Niles McKinley High School.

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