SYCAMORE – Just minutes after Cornerstone Christian Academy lost in the championship game of the Association of Christian Schools International basketball boys basketball state finals last season, Michael Jorgensen, Thomas Johnson and their teammates gathered together.
With almost every key contributor coming back, they wanted to set the tone immediately for the 2012-13 season.
Cornerstone won its first 19 games of the season and its 25-4 record in the regular season gave Cornerstone a first-round bye in the ACSI state tournament. It defeated Westlake and Kankakee Trinity in its first two games, before edging Collinsville, 65-59, to win the first boys basketball state title in school history.
“Starting from Day One this season, we said our goals were to give the glory to God and get redemption at state,” said Jorgensen, a senior. “It’s paid off since. Everybody’s been working hard.”
The title game against Collinsville started out as poorly as one could imagine for Cornerstone, trailing 21-3 after the first quarter.
“There was a lid on the hoop and we were amped up a little too much,” Cornerstone coach Tom Olmstead said. “Every missed shot we had in that first quarter was like a transition pass to a fast break.”
Cornerstone, which typically utilizes a full-court press to play a more up-tempo pace, had to switch into a 3-2 zone and play a more disciplined style. It chipped away at the lead and eventually took control in the fourth quarter.
“Every day they want to play like a champion, so they know they have to practice hard, stay focused, keep their goals,” Olmstead said. “They’ve been great. They’ve been wanting to achieve that all year.”
Cornerstone is led by a group of four seniors in its starting lineup, including Jorgensen and Johnson, who both surpassed 1,000 career points this season. They become only the third and fourth boys basketball players in Cornerstone history to have their jerseys retired. Jorgensen is committed to play at Judson University next year while Johnson still is considering his college options.
Cornerstone was accepted into the National Association of Christian Athletes national tournament and will compete in the week-long tournament starting today in Dayton, Tenn.
“We’ve had now even a couple other kids who are tempted to maybe go and bring their talents elsewhere, want to stay now,” Olmstead said. “That’s nice to see. Building that momentum to keep our talent within the program and attract talent from outside the program.”
The NACA national tournament often features teams with multiple Division I players and recently has produced NBA players such as Nolan Smith, Tyreke Evans and Michael Beasley.
But Olmstead said the experience will be good for his team.
“It’s been a little different going into nationals than it was with state,” Jorgensen said. “State, the whole year has been looking toward that, trying to get that first. It’s going to be a fun trip.”