DAYTON, Tennessee — Kevin Roth had a feeling Saturday was going to be a good day for his Columbus Christian boys basketball team after it met for breakfast in the morning.
Roth had confidence in the team because of the way it had bought into the game plans at the National Association of Christian Athletes Tournament. His optimism rang true Saturday afternoon when the Crusaders knocked off West Melbourne (Florida) Christian 54-50 to win the Division V championship.
“We had breakfast this morning as a team and kind of went over the game plan, and I said ‘We’re going to get it done today,'” Roth said. “The third time was the charm.”
Columbus Christian had finished second in 2012 and 2014. Both times, it lost the title game by one point in overtime.
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This time, West Melbourne Christian, the Florida Christian School state champs, jumped out to an 18-6 lead late in the first quarter and still led 29-23 at halftime. The Crusaders then held their opponent to four points in third quarter to take a 34-33 lead.
Columbus Christian held between a three- and five-point lead for most of the fourth quarter. West Melbourne Christian cut it to two in the closing seconds, but Evan Reed sank two free throws with 5.2 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“There’s a lot of tears on the court,” Roth said. “Everybody was really happy.”
Blake Barker led the Crusaders (28-6) with 16 points and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Logan Roth, who finished second in the slam dunk contest on Friday night, had 14 points and nine rebounds and was selected as the tournament’s Offensive MVP.
Kyle Marsh added 12 points for Columbus Christian.
“If I had to pick an MVP from this game, it would be Kyle Marsh,” Kevin Roth said. “He really did a good job of getting ball penetration against their zone and getting easy looks for Logan. He and Evan controlled the pace of the game.
The Crusaders won four games in four days to claim their first NACA title. There will be a celebration at 8 p.m. Monday in school gym.
“This group never quit,” Kevin Roth said. “This week, this group of guys, even the guys that didn’t play, they were pulling for one another and encouraging one another. You always have teams that are going to have cliques, but these guys were together all week.”