GROWING PAINS

Only nine months have passed since the Columbus Christian girls basketball team hoisted the trophy as the top Christian school team in Indiana.

But that accomplishment might seem like a long time ago, considering the plight the Crusaders have endured this season. They’re 2-10 with the 2015 portion of the schedule in the rearview mirror.

“It’s a rough start,” said freshman Grace Lorimor, who has played varsity the past two years. “We’re hoping to pull it all together and just have fun and play basketball.”

Columbus Christian went 21-9 in 2013-14 and won a National Association of Christian Schools tournament championship. Last year, the Crusaders went 31-4 and captured an Indiana Christian Schools Tournament title.

But four starters from that squad, including current Cincinnati Christian University players Macy Wingham and Rachel Warren, graduated. The fifth, Tori Robinson, moved to Tennessee.

“It’s definitely a rebuilding year,” said junior Jena Fryback, the most experienced Crusader. “We’re working hard in practice, but we just have to start playing as a team. I think we need to push each other a little bit harder and focus and commit to what we’re doing. Definitely, basketball is a mental game, and you have to keep uplifting the team in order to keep playing well.”

Besides the five starters, Columbus Christian also lost its coach, Ron Bridgewater, who resigned so he could watch his son Nick play at Cincinnati Christian. Jennifer Hardin, who had been an assistant under Bridgewater the past couple years, took over as head coach.

Columbus Christian began the season with only six players but has since added a few who are splitting time between basketball and club volleyball. A fifth-grader, Lauren Barker, is splitting time between basketball and swimming.

“Because we had lost a bunch to volleyball, it was a struggle to even keep this program alive,” Hardin said. “We were one commitment away from not having a team altogether. As long as we can make it through this season and be free from any more injuries, we’ll be OK.”

The biggest injury this season has come to leading scorer Emily Muck. The 5-foot-8 junior guard, who had played for the Indianapolis Homeschool Wildcats the past couple years, has missed four games because of a sprained ankle.

Muck, who leads the team with 17.1 points a game, returned for Saturday’s losses to Rock Creek Academy and Cannelton in the Cannelton Invitational.

“It means a ton for (point guard Jena) Fryback,” Hardin said. “(Fryback) doesn’t get anybody to give her any relief. The rest of them are playing a little bit out of their area, but not a ton, with Emily being gone.”

Juniors Hannah Lorimor, Madi Ochs and Jenny Decker and sophomore Taylor Ingram were also members of last year’s squad and have moved into bigger roles this season.

“It is scary, but it’s awesome at the same time,” said Ochs, a starting guard. “I think we’ve been playing our hardest. I think we’ll get better as it goes. We just need to keep working hard.”

With no seniors on the team, the Crusaders are looking to build toward next season.

“If we can get them all back for next year, we’ll have a little bit of an advantage,” Hardin said. “We have some younger ones coming up next year that add a little bit of height, a little bit more agility and aggression. It looks hopeful for next year.”

If you go

Columbus Christian’s remaining regular-season girls basketball schedule:

Jan. 2;at Medora;4:30 p.m.

Jan. 11;at Madison Christian;6 p.m.

Jan. 15;at Southside Christian;10 p.m.

Jan. 16;Cannelton;6:15 p.m.

Jan. 20;Crosspointe Christian;5:30 p.m.

Jan. 26;Colonial Christian;5:45 p.m.

Jan. 30;Providence Cristo Rey;5 p.m.

Feb. 5;at Bloomington Lighthouse;6:15 p.m.

Feb. 12;at Horizon Christian;6:30 p.m.

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.