Columbus Christian boys basketball coach Kevin Roth has been telling his players that the most important time of the basketball season is upon them.
He hopes they are paying attention.
The Crusaders (19-9) begin Indiana Christian State tournament play Thursday at home at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of Tuesday’s South Region matchup between Christel House and Southside Christian. Columbus Christian will host the regional title game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
While Columbus Christian has beaten all the teams in its region, Roth said his team isn’t playing particularly well.
“We’re running in mud,” Roth said. “I don’t know if we’re just tired or what.
“Maybe we’re just looking a little ahead. It’s the kind of thing that I had talked to them about all last week.”
Roth was not pleased with his team’s 60-49 loss to Providence Cristo Rey on Saturday at home. “We had a whole week to prepare for them,” Roth said. “We watched film and we knew what their individuals did. But we got off to a slow start.”
If the Crusaders managed to win their region, they would be on course to face Providence Cristo Rey in the state tournament semifinals on March 1 at Heritage Christian in Dyer. Providence Cristo Rey is ranked No. 2 among Indiana Christian State schools while Columbus Christian is No. 4. Horizon Christian of Indianapolis is No. 1 and Clinton Christian is No. 3.
The Crusaders are favorites to win their region as they beat Southside Christian 87-49 in their opening game of the season and they have beaten Christel House 88-55.
“The thing about Southside is that I hear that team has gotten a lot better,” Roth said. “We played them on Nov. 16 and that was our first game of the year. We did win that game without (center) Chris Noblitt, who had the flu.”
The No. 2 seed in the region is Bloomington Lighthouse, which has lost to Columbus Christian twice this season, 77-66 on Jan. 25 and 68-54 on Dec. 14.
Unlike the Columbus Christian boys, the Crusaders’ girls aren’t ranked going into the regional tournament. Even so, an 11-13 record has coach Ron Bridgewater pleased.
“I think we’re excited,” Bridgewater said. “We are playing well right now and everyone has been involved with the offense.
“Three games in a row we have put three girls in double figures scoring and we have won four games in a row. I think we are playing our best ball of the season. Our defense has gotten a whole lot better. I don’t think there is anyone that our girls don’t think they can compete with.”
The Crusaders open play on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Indianapolis Lighthouse at Horizon Christian High School in Indianapolis. Columbus Christian has beaten Horizon Christian twice but the team will be hard-pressed to get through the second round.
“We’ve got to cut down on turnovers and we have to convert, hit some shots,” Bridgewater said. “Absolutely there is a great sense of high expectations. We’ve come such a long way.”