In what was the Saxony Lutheran boys basketball team’s second year of having Justin Callahan at the helm, the Crusaders were able to reach the district championship game for the first time since 2018.
This was despite the fact Saxony finished with an overall record under .500 (8-14) for the third-consecutive season, but the team was able to rally off five-straight wins before falling to Charleston, 68-31, in the Class 3 District 2 title game.
Thankfully for the Crusaders, they bring back all but one starter and a majority of their players who rotated in off the bench.
“For the second part of the year, we were actually 7-6 and with a five-game winning streak to end the season,” Coach Callahan said. “We’d like to continue that momentum because we have seven out of our top-eight kids back.
“Some of them have been with me for three years — most of them at least two years — so I feel like it’s finally coming together where they are there now understanding the way I want things done.”
The one starter Saxony lost to graduation was Lane Koenig, who actually served as a two-year starter for Callahan.
Perhaps the biggest key coming back for the Crusaders is the team’s lone all-district honoree from last winter in senior post Wilson Lodge, who averaged a double-double last season with points and rebounds per game.
“I’m really expecting big things out of him. The biggest thing he brings to the table is his work ethic,” Callahan said. “He just works so hard at it. Through the years, I’ve always tried to get kids who are multi skilled. If he gets a rebound and takes off on the dribble leading the fast break, I have no problem with that.
“He can handle it, and he’s no point guard by any means, but he can take the ball end-to-end or make a nice pass. He’s improved his foot work in the post, so his overall game has just improved because he’s always in the gym.”
Outside of Lodge, Coach Callahan feels like he has plenty of scoring options with all of the talent he’s bringing back since Wilson will likely draw many double and sometimes even triple teams from opposing defenses. The three other returning starters for Saxony are players like seniors Will Eldridge, Logan Pruitt and junior Max Richey.
“We brought up Max Richey at point guard, and the rest of the season we had a winning record,” Coach Callahan said. “Eldridge has worked really hard, and I brought him up as a sophomore. Pruitt played a little bit of varsity as a freshman before I got here, and he’s really improved his skills over the years.”
Also seeing starts during Saxony’s five wins in a row was sophomore Luke Eggemeyer, who will likely fill the starting role left by Koenig. Eggemeyer’s older brother senior Wade Egge-meyer along with juniors Landon Ochs and Aaron Zoellner will also push for time on the floor.
The ninth and final player Coach Callahan feels like will make contributions this season is sophomore John Hartmann. Callahan said, like several of his other players, Hartmann is someone who has really bought into putting in time lifting weights.
“Those nine can actually all battle for minutes on varsity. This is the deepest we’ve been since I’ve been here,” Coach Callahan said. “You’re going to have injuries, sickness and foul trouble throughout the year, so having another guy who can go in there and do the job when someone’s out? I like that.”
Offensively, Callahan is having his squad focusing on how to play and react to defenders rather than run a specific scheme. On defense, Callahan feels like his team will do well playing both man-to-man and zone because of the length most of his player posses.