The Columbus Christian boys basketball team wasn’t about to give up its hope of a second consecutive Indiana Christian Schools Tournament title.
Down 80-67 to Indianapolis Lighthouse with less than two and a half minutes remaining, the Crusaders showed the integrity and talent that has elevated the program to one of the best.
Sparked by a pair of 3-point shots delivered by point guard Nick Bridgewater, the Crusaders went on a 14-1 run to tie the game at 81-81 at the end of regulation.
That flurry, however, seemed to sap the Crusaders, who couldn’t match visiting Indianapolis Lighthouse in overtime. The Bulldogs pulled away for a 91-88 victory.
It was a hard loss for Columbus Christian seniors Bridgewater, Josh Miracle, Austin Straub, Chris Noblitt and Jacob Day, who have been such a huge part of the team’s success during their years on the team.
The Crusaders even managed to mount a comeback after Miracle fouled out in the fourth quarter.
Bridgewater delivered in the clutch, including a game-tying 3 with 2.5 seconds left in regulation to cap the tremendous rally.
“We played with a lot of heart because we wanted to win this game so bad,” said Bridgewater, who finished with a game-high 32 points. “Nobody on the team quit, and we just kept fighting. It has been amazing playing with these guys and I wish we could have gotten a lot farther along in the tournament.”
The season is not officially over for the Crusaders (21-7) as they will play in the National Association of Christian Athletes tournament in Dayton, Tennessee, March 4 to 7. Indianapolis Lighthouse moves to the state final four.
“Nick carried the load for us with Josh fouling out early on,” Columbus Christian coach Kevin Roth said. “He came up big for us to go to overtime.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to the early lead by using the speed and quickness of guard Jordan Harris. With Harris running the show, the visitors took a 21-10 lead in the first quarter. The Crusaders came storming back with Noblitt carrying the load by pouring in 11 of his 18 points in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 38-32 at halftime.
“They came out and gave us a good punch,” Roth said. “We withstood that to come back in the game and eventually take the lead at one point in the third quarter.”
Bridgewater gave the Crusaders their only lead of the game with a 3-point basket in the third quarter for a 53-50 advantage, but the Bulldogs responded right back when Othos Morrow converted a basket and ensuing free throw to tie the game 53-53. The Bulldogs scored the final seven points of the third quarter to jump ahead 60-53.
The Crusaders did not do much inside the rest of the way, having to rely on the 3-point.
“I would have liked for us to get the ball inside more when we had that lead,” Roth said. “It would have definitely put a lot of pressure of their guys.”
Straub finished with 17 points and junior Adriane Polley added 12 points.
The Crusaders did catch a break during their late fourth quarter run when the Bulldogs’ Dionte Bolden was assessed a technical foul for arguing his foul on Bridgewater on a 3-point attempt. Bridgewater would sink four of the five free throws to make it 81-73. Bridgewater would hit another 3 after the Bulldogs committed a turnover to make it 81-76. Straub would convert two free throws on the next possession after another Bulldog turnover to cut it 81-78, setting up Bridgewater’s game-tying 3.