Columbia Central came into Friday night’s Class B District Championship game at Napoleon High School on a hot streak. The Eagles flew into Friday’s title game having won nine in a row – not losing since a thumping at Hillsdale in late January. Lumen Christi, however, entered the game having been on a hot streak… well… all season.
In the end, the season-long hot streak won out.
The Titans claimed the district title with a 69-61 win over CC in front of a loud, packed house at Napoleon.
Lumen Christi was in control from the outset, leading 25-16 after one quarter and 41-28 at the half by controlling the tempo of the game. They pushed the ball up court on offense and pressed on defense, forcing the Eagles to adjust on the fly.
Columbia Central came into the game with an advantage down low, featuring 6’7 senior center Riley Boyers and 6’6 forward Tucker Kik. Lumen Christi, however, negated any advantage by getting their wing players out in space.
“We definitely wanted to control the tempo of the game,” Titan junior forward Matt Bullinger said. “We wanted to make them play our style because we knew they’d have trouble running up and down the court with us. Not many teams can run with us when we really get going.”
Bullinger was practically unstoppable, as he used a combination of three pointers (he had four), put-backs and slices to the basket to score 24 points. His front court mate Alex Potter added 13 as the Titans opened up a 16 point lead.
Columbia Central wouldn’t go quietly, though, and whittled the deficit down to six in the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t quite pull away from them and it got a little crazy towards the end, but you have to credit Columbia for that,” Titan coach Rich Karasek said. “Our forwards (Bullinger and Potter) have been so special for us all year. They’re so athletic and quick and they really are a matchup problem for anyone we play. But our guys – Khari Willis and Amani Bass and the others – do a great job of getting the ball to them. These kids have played together for a while now and it shows.”
Karasek looked around at the scene on the court, where his players hugged and shook hands with each other, with parents and fans and with a loud student section that made the short jaunt east on M-50.
“I was so excited to see such a great turnout tonight,” he said. “We have a very good basketball team and I think people are starting to realize this is something special.”
Willis threw in 11 points for the Titans and Bass added 10. Justin O’Dowd chipped in with 7.
Lumen Christi (19-3) advances to the regionals on Monday night against the winner from the Charlotte district.
For Columbia Central (14-7) their nine game winning streak ended as their season did. Unable to control the tempo that Lumen Christi established, the Eagles were forced to play catch-up, and in the end just couldn’t get there.
Senior forward Roonie Crist, their leading scorer, helped ignite the comeback attempt with 12 second half points and he finished with 19. But 6’1 forward Ryan Adams was the sparkplug for the Eagles. Adams almost single-handedly kept CC in the game in the first half by muscling, scratching and fighting his way to 18 points. Adams and Kik, along with 6’2 Brandon Shay and starting guard Scott Weatherwax will be the foundation of next years’ Eagles squad.
The state tournament is a pyramid, and the rarified air gets harder and harder to navigate the higher one climbs. For the Eagles, the journey ends. For Lumen Christi, it’s another step up as this thing called March Madness rolls on.