Columbus Christian falls in regional final

For The Republic

In life, working hard, giving your best effort, and showing heart will generally lead to success.

Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said about basketball, as the Columbus Christian Crusaders found out Tuesday night.

The Crusaders took the court with a raucous crowd behind them and played an intense game against the bigger and physically stronger visitors from Bloomington Lighthouse Christian Academy in the South Regional final of the ICSAA tournament. And although they played with incredible passion, it was not enough to overcome the size of the Lions, falling 82-57.

“We knew they were bigger and stronger from the game we played against them in December,” Columbus Christian coach Kevin Roth said. “I knew that we would play hard, and we wouldn’t quit. I think we got the maximum effort out of our players tonight, but it just wasn’t enough.”

It didn’t take long for Lighthouse’s physicality to establish itself. After falling behind 5-0 lead, the Crusaders’ C.J. Reed nailed a triple from the wing to cut the lead to two.

Back-to-back 3-pointers and a jumper from the Lions’ Josh Bailey helped Lighthouse (12-11) go on a 16-7 run to take a 21-10 lead with 45 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. A Conner Emily three-point play stopped the run, and Columbus Christian (16-19) trailed 21-13 heading in to the second quarter.

The second period was more of the same from the Lions, who kept the Crusaders at bay. Columbus Christian did everything it could to keep up with Lighthouse, and for the majority of the quarter, it was able to do just that. But a quick six-point spurt by the Lions right before the half upped their lead to 15 points heading into halftime at 39-24.

The Crusaders spent the most of the first half outside the paint and were having trouble getting any shots inside.

“We had a lot of trouble getting any good looks because of their length,” Roth said. “At halftime, we talked about driving to get them to commit and then throwing a bounce pass. I thought we might be able to get around them with our quickness and possibly draw some fouls.”

Coming out for the second half, Roth’s strategy seemed to work. Columbus Christian had its most successful quarter of the game, outscoring Lighthouse 20-14 to get itself back into the game.

The Crusaders trailed by only nine heading into the final period with momentum on their side. Emily did most of the damage scoring 14 of his game-high 32 points in the quarter.

The Lions quickly put any notion of a comeback by Columbus Christian away in the fourth period, however. They began the period with a 19-8 run to put the game out of reach. They shot lights-out for the period, scoring 29 points while holding the Crusaders to 13.

John Parker III led the way for Lighthouse, scoring 12 of his team-high 28 points in the quarter.

“We really wanted to slow down Parker III,” Roth said. “But he played really well. They all played great and shot the ball extremely well tonight.”

With the victory, the Lions advance to the ICSAA state final four in Lafayette on Saturday. Columbus Christian will travel to Dayton, Tennessee, next week to compete in the NACA national tournament, an event where it won its division last year.