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Healthy Elijah Kothe leads Faith Lutheran into Sunset playoffs

Faith Lutheran’s Elijah Kothe was poised to have a big senior season on the football field, but a broken collarbone derailed that plan after five games.

But Kothe made sure that didn’t end his high school athletic career.

Kothe came back to play in the final 11 games of the boys basketball regular season, helping Faith Lutheran win the Northwest League title.

“This is really nice,” Kothe said. “I’m just really thankful and grateful to be out here, because I didn’t know for sure if I would be able to be out here. And just to be able to play with all the guys one last time is a blessing.”

The Crusaders (21-5) host Sierra Vista (12-14) in the Class 4A Sunset Region quarterfinals at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The tournament runs through Saturday, with the championship game scheduled for 6 p.m. at Legacy.

Kothe suffered the injury Sept. 28 against Legacy. After earning all-state honors in 2016, Kothe was limited to 23 catches for 302 yards and four touchdowns in those five games as a senior.

“It was really tough,” said Kothe, who has signed to play receiver at San Diego State. “It’s nothing I’ve been through. … That’s the first time missing any games. It’s definitely a new experience for me.”

It also left him unsure if he would make it back before the end of the basketball season. But he worked hard and made his season debut Jan. 11 against Palo Verde.

“Originally they weren’t sure if I was able to come back at all,” said Kothe, a 6-foot-4 forward. “I just made sure that I attacked rehab and was doing that and I was able to get back. This is something I really wanted to do: just have fun, stress-free, just play with all my brothers and friends.”

Kothe did more than just make it back. He has had a huge impact, leading the team in scoring (16.9 points per game) and rebounding (8.2) over the final 11 games.

“He does a lot of things that we didn’t have somebody on the team to do,” Faith Lutheran coach Bret Walter said. “He rebounds the ball really well. He’s a great role player; he scores around the basket, but then he can also step out and defend other people. He’s versatile, and he’s a good athlete. So anytime you can add that back onto your team, it’s a huge benefit.”

The Crusaders lost 49-48 to Palo Verde in Kothe’s first game back, but they quickly adjusted to his presence and won their final five games of the regular season.

“Once everyone got healthy and once we got our full squad back, everything just started clicking and our team chemistry just started getting better,” said senior guard Jaylen Fox.

Faith Lutheran shows plenty of balance, with Fox (15.8), Brevin Walter (13.3) and Dalton Kincaid (11.3) also scoring in double figures.

“What we try to do is take advantage of the matchups or the type of defense that’s being played that night,” Bret Walter said. “And nobody on our team is worried about getting their 20 points or anything.”

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.

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