EAST PALESTINE - Despite East Palestine and Crestview playing for third place in the ITCL upper tier on Friday night, the Rebels used their positioning in the league as motivation towards post-season play and grabbed a 54-36 win on the road.
"It was progress towards the tournament, this game got us 10 wins now and to me there's a big difference between 10-5 and 9-6," Crestview head coach Herman Miller said. "Just saying it even sounds different because you have a double digit number in the front. We look at our district and think that there are a couple of good teams for sure, but for the most part it is pretty open."
After falling to East Palestine (6-8, 5-5) earlier this season, Crestview (10-5, 6-4) had revenge on their minds from the moment they stepped off the bus.
"We were pretty pumped before the game," Crestview junior Robert Logan said. "I was telling everybody on the bus that we are not going to lose tonight. It may be homecoming for them, but we are having no mercy."
Crestview's bout for revenge was eased when East Palestine's leading scorer Austen Reiser left the game with an injury just seconds into the contest. Reiser left the floor with a hand injury, eventually exiting the gymnasium which effectively ended his evening.
"When you lose your leading rebounder the first possession of the game, it hurts," East Palestine head coach Tom Bingham. "It changed our game completely and it forced us to do things that we weren't prepared to do. We tried to adjust on the fly."
Despite being down their top scorer, and by as many as 15 points at halftime, East Palestine came out in the second half and made a run that eventually brought the deficit to nine points.
Although Reiser suffered a bad fracture, he is expected to take the floor for the Bulldogs on Tuesday.
"They made a run and I think that's to be expected when team loses their best player," Miller said. "They are going to try to play up and seize the moment we did a nice job of pushing it out to about 17 or 18 and then they cut it back to nine at it's closest. While I didn't feel like we were in jeopardy, I didn't want us to get caught up in the action."
The Rebels took advantage of their size, especially without the injured Reiser. Crestview came up with several second and third chances on the offensive glass, and used those opportunities to convert several easy put-backs. East Palestine struggled early with the mismatch, and the deficit made things even more difficult for the already shorthanded Bulldogs.
"We tried to pack it in and we pressed more tonight and tried to force some turnovers, but they were too big and too physical inside for us tonight," Bingham said. "I'm extremely proud of our kids since they cut into that lead, they aren't going to quit and that's what we preach."
With a forgettable first half behind them, East Palestine came out in the second and used a 10-0 run through the last half of the third quarter to cut their deficit to nine.
"I thought Nate Keylor played a heck of a game for us tonight and so did Alec Dumbauld," Bingham said. They did a great job coming off of the bench for us tonight."
Crestview's demise in that third stanza was an outbreak of turnovers and tendency to rush. Once Miller called a timeout to address their shortcomings, the Rebels rebounded and pushed their lead back to double digits.
"Once we calmed down we did okay," Miller said. "It's an emotional charge that is to be expected when the team is playing without one of its best players I really hope the kid is okay because he's a great player."
With Reiser down to injury, the Rebels continued to plug away with their game plan they had crafted for the night. An injury didn't sway their focus from what they wanted to accomplish.
"Our game plan didn't actually change because he went out," Miller said. "We had some specific defense of adjustments to make for what amounts to about 60 percent of their offense so we had some specific things that we were going to do. And it really didn't change it just change for one person one riser went out."
That scheme included the Rebels big men making the most of their size advantage, which shown through over the course of the night. Logan finished with a game-high 19 points and Derek Bable joined him in double figures with 14 points.
"We always talk about that throughout the game I tell him the box out and we communicate pretty well back and forth and we help each other out with the rebounds," Logan said. "It's pretty easy down low whenever you're standing right next to each other. We are always together even in practice when we separate posts and guards. I can dribble a little bit but I'm not a guard, so we stay together."
Nick Moneleone paced the Bulldogs with ten points on the night. Steve Parker added eight points and grabbed a personal-high 11 rebounds.
Crestview also won the jayvee game 44-39.
Both teams play Tuesday as Crestview hosts United and East Palestine travels to Jackson-Milton.
Friday's game marked homecoming for the Bulldogs. Derek Smith was named king and Audrey Huddleston queen.
E. PALESTINE: 4- 8-19- 5-36
CRESTVIEW SCORING: Andrew Batchelor 0-1-1, Collin Gilbert 4-0-9, Austin Eskra 2-0-5, Josh McDade 3-0-6, Robert Logan 8-3-19, Derek Bable 5-4-14, Nick Gates 0-0-0, Enzo Lucci 0-0-0, Greg Bable 0-0-0, Eric Lloyd 0-0-0, Evan Beachler 0-0-0. TOTALS: 22, 8-18: 54.
EAST PALESTINE SCORING: Nick Monteleone 3-4-10, Nate Keylor 3-1-9, Austen Reiser 0-0-0, Billy Bibby 1-1-4, Alec Dumbauld 1-2-5, Steve Parker 3-2-8, Zack MayRobb 0-0-0, Justin Fristik 0-0-0. TOTALS: 11, 10-14: 36.
Three-pointers: Crestview 2 (Gilbert, Eskra), East Palestine 4 (Keylor 2, Bibby, Dumbauld).