CRESTVIEW — Down 15 points to Leon High School at halftime in Thursday's Class 7A region quarterfinals, the Crestview High School boys basketball team lived to play another day. Senior forward Denzel Ware tipped in the game-winning basket at the buzzer off a missed Ronnie Baylark layup to give the Bulldogs a 49-47 win.
CRESTVIEW — Down 15 points to Leon High School at halftime in Thursday's Class 7A region quarterfinals, the Crestview High School boys basketball team lived to play another day.
Senior forward Denzel Ware tipped in the game-winning basket at the buzzer off a missed Ronnie Baylark layup to give the Bulldogs a 49-47 win.
Crestview now advances to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 1987. The Bulldogs host Lincoln at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the region semifinals.
"I knew the shot was going to be rushed and it was going to roll off (the rim)," Ware said. "So I did what our coach (Greg Watson) tells us to do; box out and rebound. That's my specialty so I've got do what I do best.
"Our coach told us everything wasn't going to be perfect and we were going to have to overcome adversity. Coming out of football adversity football is pretty normal. I knew in the second half me and my team was just going to have to come back hard."
Come back hard is just what the Bulldogs (22-6) did in the second half.
Led by Marvin Biggins' 20 first-half points, Leon (18-9) seemed determined to crash Crestview's coming out party taking a 31-16 lead at the half.
But the senior-led Bulldogs wouldn't be denied.
Ware did the dirty work on the inside scoring 11 of Crestview's 13 points in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs trailed 41-29 heading into the fourth quarter. That's when Watson turned up the defensive pressure forcing several Lion turnovers.
Crestview cut the Leon lead to four points on a Tay King 3-pointer with 5:43 left in the quarter. The Lions still led by three after a 3-point play by Jerry Aaron with 4:59 left in the period.
With 2:07 left in the game Baylark scored to pull Crestview to within a basket of the Lions.
A pair of Baylark free throws with 1:08 left in the game tied things up at 47-47.
The Bulldogs finally took their only lead of the night at the buzzer when Ware tipped in the game winner.
Watson was proud of the way the Bulldogs kept fighting back.
"Talking to people that have played them (Leon), I heard they will let people back in it," he said. "That's what I told the team at half time. There's a reason we play four quarters and our guys battled.
"We finally started scoring on the inside in the second half. And at the end we just made another big play. We never quit on it."
Ware led the Bulldogs with 18 points. Baylark scored 13 and Aaron scored nine.
Biggins led all scorers with 26 points, but was shut out in the fourth quarter. Cedric Harper had 15 points for Leon.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.