WEEPING WATER — No matter what happens the rest of the way, Ashland-Greenwood has one of its best seasons and a remarkable turnaround.
The Bluejays are a win away from their first state tournament appearance since 2007 — and their third in 91 years — after beating No. 6 Lincoln Christian 67-61 in the C1-3 subdistrict final at the Weeping Water Activity Complex.
After going 3-19 last season, they are 17-6 entering the district final scheduled for Saturday. Which, of course, is weather permitting.
“Coming into the year, (a district final) certainly was a goal not a lot of people thought we could get to based off of last year,” Jays coach Jacob Mohs said. “I think we surprised some people. After what we did over the summer, we’re not overly surprised because our kids gelled and meshed really well. To beat some of the teams we have this season and play the way we have is at the high end of our potential.
“We’re ecstatic. Our kids have worked hard for several years to put this together tonight.”
Their newest teammate, freshman Cale Jacobsen, has much to do with this rags-to-riches story. The son of former coach and current principal Brad Jacobsen has averaged in the mid-teens in his debut season and had a career- high 30 against the Crusaders. He and senior Nick Schulz, whose 24 points were one off his career-high, were a combined 8 of 16 on 3-pointers.
“Jacobsen gets 30 and we didn’t have any answer for guarding him,” Crusader coach Gary Nunnally said. “He did a great job. We tried to mix some things up, played some zone, played some man, face-guarded him some. I give Ashland-Greenwood a lot of credit. It played well.”
When the Crusaders took the lead a couple of times early in the second half, it looked as if they had weathered the storm without 6-foot-5 junior Justin Bubak for the final 14 minutes of the first half after he picked up three fouls in 50 seconds.
Ashland opened a 12-3 lead but a 10-point second quarter from senior Caleb Canfield kept the Crusaders afloat.
Canfield had a 15-point fourth quarter, including four 3s, to score 29 points. Creighton Kuszak had 15 and Bubak seven.
“When (Bubak) went out, that’s good for any team because he’s a heckuva player,” Mohs said. “We had our defensive game plan geared around stopping him and (Canfield). We felt if we could slow one of those two guys down we would give ourselves a chance down the stretch to win.”
After Lincoln Christian’s 33-32 lead, Jacobsen went to the left corner for back-to-back 3s. And only at 38-35 was it a one-possession game after that.
“Nick has been shooting it outstanding the last seven or eight games, been around 50 percent from 3,” Mohs said. “Cale has been phenomenal all season long. He’s a load to handle. He’s as good as they get as a freshman.”