In a game where it looked like the last team to have the final possession would win, Colonial Christian did just that.
The Cougars’ Jayden Mahan nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to give the visitors a 54-51 win at Columbus Christian.
In a back-and-forth game that featured a second half in which no team led by more than four points, it was the final possession that decided the outcome. Mahan, who had already hit two 3-point shots in the final quarter, delivered the final dagger on his third 3 of the second half.
Crusader coach Kevin Roth explained how he wanted his team to defend during the final seconds of the game.
“I told my team to focus on No. 42 (Joe Martin, the Cougars’ leading scorer) because he had been hurting us in the second half. Of course, I would have liked to have seen more pressure on their shooter during the final shot, but you have to pick your poison there.”
Columbus Christian (9-17) jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter, when the undersized Crusaders scrapped their way to a seven-point lead. Their aggressive defense forced the Cougars (10-3) into seven first-quarter turnovers that allowed Columbus Christian to get out in transition for some easy buckets.
By halftime, Colonial Christian had clawed its way back to within three with the help of Luke Johnson and Mahan, who had six and seven points, respectively. For the Crusaders, it was Conner Emily who helped his team head into the locker room ahead with 13 first half points.
Roth was happy with his team’s effort and energy to start the game.
“I thought we came out strong and played well in the first quarter,” he said. “Unfortunately, we were not able to keep that up the whole game.”
The second half was a back-and forth-affair. The Cougars made their way all the way back to tie the score at 32 for the first time with 4 minutes left in the third period. A Martin layin gave the Cougars its first lead of the game at 34-32 with 3:30 remaining.
The two teams played incredibly even for the majority of the fourth quarter, with Colonial Christian holding onto a slim lead throughout until the Crusaders’ Taylor Hilliard nailed a 3 from the corner to tie the game at 48 with one minute remaining. Ten seconds later, Emily hit one of two free throws to give Columbus Christian a one-point lead.
The Cougars came down the floor, called a timeout and Mahan hit the first of his two huge 3 to put his team back up by two with 30 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, the Crusaders’ Kyle Foster scored off of an offensive rebound to tie the game and set up the dramatic finish.
Although the game was close, Roth was not happy about the number of turnovers and offensive rebounds his team gave up.
“We should have been up more at the end of the game,” he said. “You won’t win many games when you turn the ball over 23 times and give up 11 offensive rebounds, though.”