When Joe Arndt returned as coach of the Tree of Life Christian School boys basketball team this season, his main goal was to get the Trojans back to respectability.
Arndt did more than just that, as Tree of Life reached a Division IV district final for the first time since 2010 and finished 20-5 overall after going 5-16 last season.
Seeded fifth of 18 teams, the Trojans opened the district tournament by defeating eighth-seeded Northside Christian 56-44 on Feb. 27 at home. They then beat sixth-seeded Grove City Christian 70-48 in the second round March 2 at home and second-seeded Danville 73-71 in a semifinal March 7 at Sparta Highland before losing to seventh-seeded Fairfield Christian 47-34 in the final March 10 at Bloom-Carroll.
"These guys accomplished so much more than we thought," said Arndt, who was named district Coach of the Year.
"My goal was to try to get them back to .500 and we won 20 games."
Arndt and Jim Morgan shared coaching duties before both stepped down after the 2014-15 season. Morgan is now coaching the girls team at Westerville Central and was named Division I district Coach of the Year.
Junior guard Andrew Konjevich had a team-high nine points against Fairfield Christian, which improved to 12-14 and advanced to play Berlin Hiland in a regional semifinal March 13 at Ohio University.
Senior guard Craig Mazzoli led Tree of Life with 18 points against Danville. Sophomore guard Ian Leach had 17 points, junior guard Josh Smith scored 15 and Konjevich added 10.
Tree of Life went 10-2 in the MOCAL to finish second behind Shekinah Christian (11-1) and ahead of Delaware Christian and Northside Christian (both 6-6), Granville Christian (4-8), Madison Christian (3-9) and Gahanna Christian (2-10).
The Trojans split their two games against Shekinah Christian, losing 53-40 on Jan. 29 and winning 63-59 on Feb. 15. Their other league loss came against Delaware Christian, 54-42 on Jan. 26.
Leach and junior guard Isaiah Smith both were named first-team all-MOCAL and third-team all-district, and junior post player Shawn Scarberry was honorable mention all-league.
The Trojans are losing three seniors in Mazzoli, post player Jacob Adair and guard Cam-eron Ransom.
Others eligible to return are juniors Caleb Gordon (post player), Raphael Hayes (post player) and Levi Hellwege (post player).
"I love Tree and when they asked me to (return as coach), I couldn't refuse," Arndt said. "It's the kids. They bought into what we were doing and listened. Some of my former players told those guys if you listen to (Arndt), you guys will get better."
@ThisWeekFrankAt a glance
*Record: 20-5 overall, 10-2 (second) in MOCAL
*Seniors lost: Jacob Adair, Craig Mazzoli and Cameron Ransom
*Key returnees: Andrew Konjevich, Ian Leach, Shawn Scarberry, Isaiah Smith and Josh Smith