SHELBY — Trey Paxton was in range the minute he crossed midcourt.
Willard’s junior marksman connected on five 3-pointers in the first quarter and the third-seeded Crimson Flashes brought an unceremonious end to top-seeded Colonel Crawford’s historic season with a 70-48 win in the first of two Division III district semifinal games Thursday at Shelby High School.
Willard (19-5) will play No. 2 Western Reserve at 2 p.m. Saturday at Shelby for the district crown. Western knocked off Crestview 87-53 in Thursday’s late game.
A 6-foot-2 guard, Paxton drained his first triple less than two minutes into the game. He wouldn’t strike again for almost three minutes, but his second trey with 3:21 remaining in the opening quarter opened the flood gates. He connected on back-to-back NBA-range treys and then hit a contested 3 with just three seconds remaining in period for a 23-8 lead.
“We knew he had great range and he came out and hit five 3s in the first quarter,” Colonel Crawford coach David Sheldon said. “Their two players, Paxton and (Myles) Pinkston, stepped up in a big game and that’s what it comes down to, who’s going to step up. Those two really carried them early and by halftime it was out of hand.”
A 6-foot-2 slasher, Pinkston scored 13 of his game-high 22 points during the first half. The Eagles (23-1) trailed 43-18 at the half and never seriously threatened. Willard led by as many as 35 points in the third quarter.
“We did a nice job early on of spacing the floor,” Willard coach Joe Bedingfield said. “That was a big thing we talked about, trying to space and pace. The kids did a nice job of being patient.”
Senior Chase Walker was the lone bright spot for the Eagles. The rugged forward scored a hard-earned 18 points, consistently attacking the rim and drawing contact. He attempted 15 free throws, making 10.
“The one guy who attacked all night for us was Chase,” Sheldon said. “Heck, he goes the the foul line 15 times. They just beat the heck out of him all night and he just kept going and going.”
Mason Studer had eight points for the Eagles. Carter Valentine added seven.
The loss was the only blemish on the season for Crawford. The Eagles were unbeaten during the regular season for just the second time in program history and won a sectional title before the clock struck midnight.
“It’s a tough one to end on, but that happens,” Sheldon said. “A couple of weeks from now we’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, what a ride it was.’ ”