Crusaders ease into title game berth

Columbus Christian forward Logan Roth was a man among boys, dominating in the paint against visiting Northpoint HomeSchool of Fishers in the Indiana Christian Schools Tournament regional semifinals Monday night.

And while Roth was scoring at will and clearing the boards, the Crusaders’ starting players were cheering from the bench. They weren’t needed much in an 84-44 victory that moves them into today’s 7 p.m. title game against Indianapolis Lighthouse.

Crusaders coach Kevin Roth weighed the importance of having his starters play some major minutes Monday and decided it was better not to have them get into any sloppy habits against an overmatched team.

“We were a little loosey-goosey before the game,” said Kevin Roth, who noted his team handled Northpoint 105-49 during the regular season. “So we started out working on stuff, some different wrinkles on offense.”

Columbus Christian ran off to an 18-0 lead, and it was evident the game was going to get completely out of hand. Roth gave up on the idea of working on plays and sent in the reserves.

The Crusaders led 23-6 after the first quarter and 44-23 at halftime.

“We were running plays we don’t normally run,” said Crusaders starter Adriane Polley, who scored eight points in about a quarter’s worth of work.

Can the Crusaders now pick up the intensity for the championship game that features a tough opponent? Columbus Christian needed overtime to defeat Indianapolis Lighthouse 89-84 on Feb. 6.

“It is just a little difficult, but we are used to it by now,” Polley said.

The nature of Christian Schools basketball is that mismatches often are part of the equation. However, those easy games are now behind Columbus Christian, the defending state champion.

Indianapolis Lighthouse looked terrific in beating a very solid Bloomington Lighthouse team 72-52 on Monday night and even if the Crusaders manage to win the region, they need two more victories Saturday in Lafayette to defend their state title.

Every step will be hard.

Polley said Columbus Christian, which is 21-6, is peaking at the right time.

“I think we are playing well,” he said. “I think we are a better passing team now and we have better teamwork.”

But does Columbus Christian have the edge tonight that tough competition provides in the early rounds of a tournament?

“For the most part, we need our players to follow the lead of our captains, Nick (Bridgewater) and Chris (Noblitt),” Kevin Roth said. “We’ll be ready to go.”

One benefit Monday’s win might provide is that the reserves gained confidence and lots of playing time. Roth, a sophomore, scored 14 points and showed he can make a valuable contribution in these final games. He also has a bright future next season.

Noblitt, a senior center, tied with Roth for team-high honors with 14 points. Senior forward Austin Straub added 13 points, and point guard Nick Bridgewater had 10, including a pair of 3s.