They were on the team as freshmen when Columbus Christian won a state Christian-school title in 2014, but they didn’t have their fingerprints all over it like they did with this year’s national championship.
Logan Roth, Evan Reed and Connor Graham were three of the six players who saw action in the Crusaders’ semifinal and final wins in last week’s National Association of Christian Athletes Division V Tournament in Dayton, Tennessee. Roth was named the event’s Offensive MVP.
“Our school has built up a pretty good program here, and it’s really nice to come out on top our senior year,” Roth said. “We’ve been on the team, but it’s a lot different when it’s your senior year, and you really want to end your season on the best note.”
Roth, Reed and Graham have been going to Columbus Christian since pre-school. They’ve been playing basketball together since fourth grade.
Monday night, the trio reminisced about their days together at a championship celebration in the school’s gym.
“(The national title is) something we’ve been working toward,” Graham said. “We just love the sport and playing together. It’s something we wanted to earn for ourselves and for coach.”
That coach, Kevin Roth, just completed his 17th year since starting the Crusaders’ program in 2001. He has been the school’s athletics director for 27 years.
Kevin Roth, who led Columbus Christian to Indiana Christian Schools Tournament titles in 2003 and 2014 and NACA runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2014, said that while the competition may not be as talented in the national event as the state tourney, it’s tougher because the out-of-state teams play different brands of basketball and are harder to scout.
Also, Kevin Roth noted that the game is officiated differently in the national tourney in that fewer fouls are called.
“Going down there and playing for a national title, too, it’s a grind,” Kevin Roth said. “It is harder to win than the state tournament because you’re playing different styles. We have to come together as a team and play as a unit and really execute our game plan to come out on top.”
The Crusaders did just that last week when they won four games in four days to claim their first NACA championship.
In the finals, they won 54-50 against West Melbourne (Florida) Christian, which was 30-2 and had won the Florida Christian-schools state title. Reed made the game-clinching free throws with 5 seconds remaining.
“We won state our freshman year and then had a couple of hard years after that of not winning anything,” Reed said. “Then just working hard to where we are now and winning this means a whole lot, especially to do it with these two and all of our teammates. I really believe I have some of the best teammates in the world here, and I wouldn’t trade this season for anything.”
Head coach: Kevin Roth
Assistant coach: Matt Bond
Assistant coach: Nick Bridgewater
Assistant coach: Ryan Crase
Assistant coach: Nathan Haynes