SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- The bragging rights haven’t diminished the past 10 years. Neither have the memories of Moeller’s third state basketball title.
Former Moeller guard Tony Rack loves to send any reminders to his friends about that 2007 state championship team.
Rack, the director of basketball operations at Northern Kentucky University, is on a group chat with former AAU basketball teammates and Greater Catholic League rival players Brad Loesing and Walt Gibler (St. Xavier) and Kyle Rudolph (Elder).
Rudolph, the Minnesota Vikings tight end, might send a photo of Elder’s win over Moeller during the regular season.
But Rack will text back: ‘Who won it all that year?’”
That GCL connectivity was evident in the 2007 Division I state final as Moeller defeated St. Xavier 43-40 in front of 14,307 at Ohio State University’s Value City Arena March 24, 2007 in Columbus.
Players on both sides knew each other and in some ways grew up playing together.
It was just the third time two teams from the same league in Ohio played in the state boys’ basketball championship in 85 years.
“It was a very intense game,” former Moeller forward Daniel Wulker said. “Playing against our rivals made it more special.”
That 2007 Moeller state championship team will reconnect when the Crusaders play host to Sycamore at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Several members of that Moeller team will be in attendance for a halftime recognition and post-game gathering.
“It will be really fun to see them together again,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer said. “There will be some nostalgia. They will enjoy that a lot.”
The players enjoy speaking about the experience of winning a state title and completing it against another GCL rival. They still keep in touch with Kremer. The coach recently joined Twitter as an effective way to connect.
The players are adults with careers in various fields, but the state championship discussion never dissipates. They knew the time and effort put into games and practices. The state title was the culmination of all of that.
“It was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of up until that point,” said Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter, a junior shooting guard on that ’07 Moeller team.
But the state semifinal is where the Crusaders had to prove the state and national rankings wrong.
Moeller gave Lakewood St. Edward its first loss of the season in that state semifinal in Columbus. It wasn’t easy.
St. Ed’s was ranked No. 7 nationally by USA Today and No. 1 in Ohio. The Eagles were loaded with talented players such as junior 6-foot-8 forward Delvon Roe (Michigan State) and forward Tom Pritchard (Indiana).
Kremer and his players watched the Eagles practice at Capital University that late March weekend. The Moeller coaching staff knew how talented this Eagles’ team was all season.
St. Ed’s was clearly the dominant team in Ohio. The Eagles had the potential for significant spurts throughout a game.
The Moeller players didn’t seem to mind. They just wanted to keep the game close with four minutes remaining.
“The sum of our parts was better,” former Moeller guard Troy Tabler said.
Moeller limited the Eagles’ offense. The Crusaders out-rebounded them. Moeller also won the foul line advantage.
Moeller upset St. Ed’s 67-60.
“We consider that to be one of the greatest wins in the history of Moeller basketball,” said Kremer, who is seven wins from reaching 500 for his career.
Rack looked up to the seats and saw St. Xavier’s Gibler after the semifinal. Both pointed toward each other. The GCL rivals would decide the state championship.
But Kremer wondered how his players would react to “the game of our lives” just 24 hours later in playing a St. X team the Crusaders defeated twice in the regular season.
“I was really concerned about our emotional state,” Kremer said.
The Crusaders and Bombers played a typical rugged GCL game. It was physical and tough and it was close. No one imagined a lopsided game. It kept to the script.
“Aside from the league standpoint it was a very nerve-racking, anxious and emotion-filled game,” said Moeller athletic communications director Steven Albrinck, a 2008 graduate who was a statistician that season. “You never want to lose to a rival, especially when a state title is on the line.”
There was also plenty of gamesmanship.
With under three minutes remaining, Moeller forward Terry Martin committed his last foul. Then the Crusaders drew a technical.
The referee told Rack that Gibler was shooting two technical shots first. But Gibler shouldn’t have stayed at the line for the additional two. Gibler made four consecutive free throws.
He winked at Rack. The game was tied at 38. The momentum changed.
The Moeller players gathered in the huddle on the sideline. Forward Quinn McDowell told his teammates, ‘Somebody has to make a play right now.’”
Rack was able to grab at the ball when St. Xavier guard Loesing had it. The jump ball stopped the momentum.
“I just wanted to hug Quinn because he was the guy who gave me a jolt,” Rack said.
Wulker, an accountant with Cintas, made a layup with 1:15 left to give the Crusaders a 42-40 lead -- an advantage it held for good. Tabler, who works at Vantiv, made a free throw to increase the lead to three. He finished with a team-high 11 points.
St. X missed a final three-point attempt at the end.
The Crusaders were jubilant in their moment of triumph. They rushed to mid-court. The players held their medals and held up the trophy. Their camaraderie and drive produced the ultimate prize.
The state championship trophy was returning to Montgomery Road.
“The cohesiveness of that group helped,” Rack said. “The coaching staff had us on one heartbeat. That team enjoyed the ride while working extremely hard.”
Ten years later, the players still remember the special team. McDowell, a Virginia Wesleyan assistant coach, still has the compilation of photos and a roster on a poster in his office. He never retreats from talking about that '07 team.
“When it comes up it’s definitely a source of pride,” McDowell said. “It was a special year and a special group of players.”