Special photo / New Creation boys basketball team celebrates winning the ICSGA Class 2-A title at Columbus State.
McDONOUGH — Eagle’s Landing wasn’t the only local boys basketball team looking to build off a state semifinals appearance and make history this postseason.
Yes, there was New Creation Christian Academy back in the semifinals of the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia-Alabama’s Class 2-A boys basketball tournament at Columbus State.
The Crusaders took the final, unprecedented step, defeating rival Community Christian, 76-71, a year after falling short in the semifinals for the school’s first championship in any sport on Feb. 22.
“It just speaks volumes as to how far the program has come,” Crusaders coach James “Bull” Martin said.
New Creation’s monumental victory spoke just as much about how far the team came this season.
The Crusaders returned several key players, including starters B.J. Cash, Spencer Rush, Jeremy LaTourette and Nicholas Wells, but there were plenty of tests along the way. LaTourette suffered a broken hand early in the season, forcing Martin to insert junior Billy Robbins into the starting lineup. Two players were ejected in a humbling 70-57 loss at Community Christian in December.
New Creation responded.
Robbins played well enough that when LaTourette returned he took on a new role as the Crusaders’ sixth man to provide instant scoring off the bench during the state tournament.
And New Creation got revenge in January pulling out a 62-60 victory at home against Community, a harbinger of the four-quarter battle that ensued at Columbus State in the finals.
“We knew going into [the finals] it was going to be a dog fight,” Martin said, “with the kids knowing each other and everything. The game was going to come down to execution on both ends of the floor.”
Specifically, the Crusaders knew they had to defend properly against Community’s offense predicated on reversing the ball to create scoring opportunities.
It was a perfect chance for New Creation to find out whether it really had committed to playing defense like Martin exhorted them to all season.
“Offensively we never had problems scoring points,” Martin said. “Defensively we had to step up to where guys were taking charges and helping with recovery and things like that. Once they bought into it and saw the effectiveness, it made things a little bit easier.”
Now the Crusaders hold the title of defending champ. Living up to it will be tough with Cash, Rush, LaTourette and an accomplished senior class graduating.
But the hope is Robbins, Wells, Roland Bradley and Rusty Stringer can be the core of returning players that lead to more unprecedented feats.
“We could possibly compete for a back-to-back,” Martin said.