New defense helps Crusaders down Lions

The Columbus Christian boys basketball team faced a tougher test in Bloomington Lighthouse than one might have expected after seeing the teams’ records, but the Crusaders were able to hang on in the end, beating the Lions 55-48.

Columbus Christian started each half strong, scoring the first 10 points of the game and winning the third quarter 11-2, but Lighthouse refused to go away. The Lions scored just before halftime to tie the game at 25 and battled back once again in the fourth, closing the deficit to as little as three in the final quarter at 38-35.

“This is a pretty good rivalry between us,” Columbus Christian coach Kevin Roth said. “We’ve got them in the regional, and we play them home and away. We went over there in December and jumped out to a pretty big lead in that game, but they came back in the third quarter, and we couldn’t put them away.”

The Crusaders (16-5) won the December matchup 72-65, and the Lions (7-11) were clearly looking for a little payback. Each time Columbus Christian looked to put the game away, Lighthouse was right back in it.

Josh Miracle led the Crusaders with 13 points, but it was an extremely balanced performance on the offensive end. Nick Bridgewater had 11, converting three times from beyond the arc, while Chris Noblitt scored 10.

Lain Isley was a big push off the bench late for Columbus Christian, scoring all six of his points in the fourth quarter, including four in a row after Lighthouse closed the gap to 42-38.

“I really liked our minutes off the bench,” Roth said. “Lain gave us a real big lift with his defensive pressure and hitting some shots in the second half.”

It was their defense, though, that really clinched the victory for the Crusaders. A new matchup zone caused a lot of problems for their opponents, leaving Lighthouse without points for multiple long stretches.

“We implemented a new defense, kind of a matchup zone, that we’ve been working on this week, and that really kept them confused,” Roth said. “We gave up 10 3s in one game last weekend, and another game we gave up 11. And sometimes in our man-to-man defense, we have problems with penetration. So I told them we’d try this matchup zone. This was our third day of doing it, and I thought we did a pretty good job with it.”