Crusaders win regional title, trip to state

It appeared that Columbus Christian had wrapped up its first ICSAA South Regional title with a victory over Pleasant View Christian Saturday evening.

With just 1.6 seconds remaining and the Crusaders holding a 50-47 lead, Pleasant View’s Luke Stoll, who was fouled shooting a three point shot had missed his first free throw attempt. After hitting his second, the only way the Bulldogs had a chance to extend the game was to purposely miss and try to tip in the rebound.

Following a timeout, this improbable scenario became a reality. Stoll missed, but Pleasant View’s Hunter Land grabbed the rebound and shot in one motion, and the ball fell through the net as time expired, sending the contest into overtime.

Columbus Christian responded, outscoring the Bulldogs 13-6 in the extra period to come away victorious 63-56 and punch its ticket to the state’s final four Saturday at Faith Christian School in Lafayette.

Columbus Christian coach Kevin Roth explained his team’s mindset following the end of regulation.

“The players were dejected,” Roth said. “They were down, knowing we let that get away, but in the huddle before overtime, I told them at this was an opportunity to play four more minutes and go out and win the game.”

In a game that was controlled by the Crusaders (11-16) for the majority of the time, they were able to find a way to win after letting the Bulldogs (15-6) come back.

“I’m proud of the grit that my team showed tonight. We lost to these guys by eight points the first time we played, but we made some adjustments this time around, and even though it almost got away, we found a way,” Roth said.

After a first half in which Columbus Christian led by as many as eight points, Pleasant View showed fight of its own. With its leading scorer on the bench with foul trouble for the majority of the half, the Bulldogs managed to stay within striking distance and only trailed by three at the break at 26-23.

Conner Emily and C.J. Reed carried the offensive load for the Crusaders. They scored 17 points combined to lead them in the first half.

Pleasant View was able to fight its way back in the third quarter. Trey Miller converted a free throw to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 31-30 with 4:10 remaining in the third. The visitors were able to hold onto that slim lead heading into the final period.

It was then Roth ordered his team into full court pressure. The move led to nine Pleasant View turnovers in the quarter and also allowed Columbus Christian to take a five-point lead midway through the period.

The Bulldogs still were able to claw their way back to within one with just 42 seconds remaining. Emily converted two free throws to give the Crusaders a three-point lead, leading to the improbable ending in regulation.

In overtime, Reed took over for Columbus Christian, scoring the first six points. Emily chipped in six points of his own, on his way to a game-high 28 points.