Recovered from serious crash, senior Sallee leads Crusaders to victory

On Sept. 2, 2016, Columbus Christian basketball player Levi Sallee was in a serious car accident, in which he was critically injured.

Exactly 17 months later, the now-senior Crusader took full advantage of the opportunity to show how far he has come in less than two years on senior night at Columbus Christian. Crusaders coach Kevin Roth inserted Sallee into the starting lineup, and with the aid of sportsmanship by visiting Southside Christian, who gave Sallee a little extra space, he scored a field goal in his final home game.

“It feels great to come back,” Sallee said. If you would have seen me after the accident, you wouldn’t have believed it. Now, I just have some small scars.”

Sallee also reflected on his field goal.

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“It felt great to score,” he said. “I wish I would have had more, but it is what it is. Coach Roth has helped me so much. He has pushed me in practice and given me confidence.”

Sallee was not the only player to enjoy this night for the Crusaders (10-17). The whole team came out of the locker room ready to play, jumping all over the visiting Sharks. By the end of the first quarter, they had fired out to a 20-10 lead on their way to a 63-48 win.

Kyle Foster got the Crusaders off on the right foot. He scored the first six points for Columbus Christian and eight in the quarter. With a comfortable lead, Roth was able to go deeper into his bench than normal.

“We have a game (today) and a makeup game Monday, so I felt like I needed to spread the minutes out more than I normally do,” Roth said.

With the majority of the starters on the bench for the second quarter, Southside was able to creep back into the game and close the first half only trailing by five at 29-24.

Coming out for the second half, the Crusaders once again jumped on the Sharks quickly and relentlessly. They began the half with an 11-0 run to up their lead to 16 points just two minutes into the half. Columbus Christian’s Conner Emily and Taylor Hilliard each had hand in the run with five quick points.

Trailing by 11, Southside came out for the final period showing some fight with the help of Max Leitgeb and Gavin Munson. Each ended up scoring nine points in the second half, with several of those coming at the beginning of the fourth quarter and cutting the Crusader lead to seven.

Roth decided to go back to his starters one last time to finish out the game, and it was a move that paid dividends. Columbus Christian ended the game on a 12-3 run to put the Sharks away.

Leading the Crusaders were Emily with 14 points, C.J. Reed with 13 and Foster with 12.

Roth had a chance to reflect on the time he has had with his seniors.

“I wish for them that we could have had a better year record-wise because they were with us last year when we won the (NACA) national championship,” he said. “But I have really, really enjoyed coaching this group of guys.”