Crusaders advance to championship

A high-scoring second half for Columbus Christian’s Lauren Barker and a solid defensive performance out of Kayla Jones in the ICSAA South Regional helped the Crusaders avenge their one-point loss against Madison Christian from 10 days ago.

Neither team scored many baskets in the first half, but Barker’s eight third quarter points got the Crusaders’ offense on track in what would become a 38-27 win. Columbus Christian moves on to today’s 5 p.m. title game against Bloomington Lighthouse.

The Defenders (10-10) jumped out to an early 7-2 lead in before the Crusaders (3-13) closed the gap to one after one quarter. The scored remained tight for the rest of the first half, but Columbus Christian took its first lead of the game on a Madi Ochs 3-pointer.

“We were getting some good shots that just weren’t falling at the beginning,” Columbus Christian coach Tom Planalp said. “Madison Ochs hit a 3-pointer for us, which was big. That allowed us some great separation into the third quarter.”

A basket by Madison Christian’s Bella Marcum tied the game at 10 going into halftime, but Barker took over the game with 16 of her 21 points in the final two quarters. The Crusaders took a 16-14 lead, and the Defenders hit one of two free-throws to pull within one with just under three minutes left in the third quarter. Madison Christian did not score another basket until 6:16 remained in the fourth quarter.

Jones came off the bench to lead the Columbus Christian defense with six steals and nine rebounds.

“Lauren took off, and we had some great hustle from Kayla Jones,” Planalp said. “They play real well together. They play on the sixth-grade team, so they’re very familiar with each other. It was phenomenal to see them step up in a big game like this. Our seniors stepped in to help coach them through a some moments, and they just played aggressively from there.”

The Crusaders had a 24-15 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Defenders’ full-court press was not enough to stop Barker from finding the basket. Madison Christian left a significant amount of points at the free throw line as well, hitting only 4 of 18 free throws.

Today, Columbus Christian will play a Bloomington Lighthouse team that beat them 47-18 in the first game of the season.

“Bloomington is a great team, and they’ve got a great player in Grace Holdeman,” Planalp said. “We’re going to have to lock her down. This was a great defensive game for us, so I feel confident in that perspective.”

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.