HEADING into Friday night’s regional championship matchup between host Columbus Christian and Bloomington Lighthouse Christian Academy, Columbus Christian head coach Kevin Roth knew that the Crusaders were facing a tough battle.
In the end, as Crusader sophomore Chris Noblitt said, Columbus Christian “wanted it more.”
The Crusaders posted a 64-42 victory against Bloomington Lighthouse to claim its sixth consecutive south regional championship in the Indiana Christian State Tournament.
“It is honestly better every year,” Columbus Christian junior Dalane Shaull said. “It feels like tradition, and I definitely feel that we are a team that can go all the way this year.”
It was the third time this season that Columbus Christian and Bloomington Lighthouse have met, and each meeting created an intense and fast-paced competition.
This time was no exception, as the Crusaders’ 22-point victory was no indication of the fight put up by Bloomington Lighthouse.
Columbus Christian jumped out to a 19-7 lead in the first quarter, led by Shaull who posted 13 of his team-high 22 points in the first half.
Bloomington Lighthouse answered, going on an 11-2 run late in the second quarter, to come within 26-25.
However, the Crusaders were sent to the foul line three times late in the first half and went into halftime up 37-27.
“I knew all along that if we had to face Bloomington, it was going to be a tough stretch,” said Roth. “I am so proud of these guys. We set out a goal each year to be the regional champs, and the program prides itself on trying to do that.”
Although Lighthouse Christian cut its deficit down to single digits multiple times in the second half, the Lions would never take the lead.
“They stayed in it the whole game, but we fought through it,” said Noblitt, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Crusaders. “It feels really good to win after such a tough fight. They have gotten better each time we played them, and it feels great.”
Free-throw shots were the story of the second half for the Crusaders, as they shot 74 percent and posted 20 points off of free throws alone.
Neither squad displays much depth, and it showed late in the game.
Columbus Christian starter Nick Bridgewater was out with the stomach flu, which had an effect on its offense.
“Nick (Bridgewater) is kind of the glue that holds our offense together, and we definitely suffered without him,” Roth said.
Bridgewater will return for Columbus Christian in the semifinal state tournament round.
“I feel like we were beating ourselves a little bit late in the game,” Shaull said. “We had too many turnovers and had trouble slowing down the pace.”
The Crusaders had 17 turnovers, and Bloomington Lighthouse guard John Ray capitalized on those, as he led the Lions with the game-high 31 points.
Josh Miracle had 15 points for Columbus Christian, while Austin Martin added 12 and Austin Straub had seven.