BILLINGS — While several high school basketball teams across Montana are chasing state championships this week, one boys team in Billings is a newly crowned national champion.
Billings Christian School players and coaches returned home Sunday after winning the Division 4C title at the National Christian School Athletic Association Championships in Ohio. The Warriors beat Finger Lakes Christian out of New York 69-65 to clinch the title.
Former MSU Billings men’s basketball coach Craig Carse took over the team this season.
“It’s been very smooth sailing,” Carse told MTN Sports on Monday. “I had former people in town here help us a lot. Ty Elkin, my first assistant in ’95, his son was on the team. He was the assistant coach — head coach. you know, I basically sat and he did everything. I really just kind of enjoyed it.”
Nikola Susaroga, an exchange student from Serbia, scored 12 points at the national tournament and earned the Sportsmanship Award.
“Nobody thought as a team we’d win nationals,” said the forward. “It’s all about chemistry. Every single day we spent with each other. Like, I don’t even need to look at my players, I know where they are. I can just throw a pass without looking.”
“I met him at an open gym one night,” guard Drew Ouradnik said of Susaroga. “We have them here every Sunday and, instantly, the first pass he threw was, bang, behind the back.”
The Warriors closed their season with a 24-3 record and, given the chance, feel like they would’ve held their own against some varsity Montana High School Association teams.
“Going to a Christian school doesn’t mean you are bad at basketball,” guard Tate Elkin said. “There’s really good talent out there. It just is a different atmosphere. I got to see a lot of talent there and was like, ‘There are some really good basketball players.’ Winning that national championship was pretty awesome.”
And don’t be surprised if its foreshadowing for the Warriors.
“If we could accomplish this in one year, like, I know our two seniors are leaving, but I feel, I’m excited for the future of this program, especially with coach. He’s an amazing coach,” Ouradni said. “I think we’ll be able to do a lot of good things.”