After a timeout with 9.9 seconds to play Wednesday in Rolla, Jordan Miller knew he wanted the ball.
Miller’s shot from near the free-throw line as time expired lifted the Knights to a 47-45 Class 4 sectional victory over Hillcrest at Missouri S&T.
“We had to push the ball up the court,” Miller said. “I just decided I wanted to take the last shot because I’m a senior on this team.”
Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said Miller came through twice for the Knights.
“Jordan not only hit that one at the end, but he hit that long three at the end of the first quarter,” Neier said. “There’s the ballgame right there if you look at the final score.”
The Knights (20-8) faced one final hurdle after Hillcrest senior Roy Hardy Jr. hit the Hornets’ ninth three-point shot of the game to knot the score at 45-45 with 10.5 seconds to play.
“It was great,” Miller said. “Toward the end, we started coming together. We decided we needed one stop, one rebound to secure the game. We didn’t want to give up any threes and they got a deep three by 14 (Hardy).”
Borgia called a timeout with 9.9 seconds on the clock, plenty of time to set up a shot to try and win it.
After junior Kevin Birk inbounded the ball to him, Miller studied the defense. He already had an idea of what he wanted to do.
“I wanted to take it closer and not pull up from the three-point line because I wasn’t hitting too well tonight,” Miller said. “I decided to drive in. He (junior Juwan Johnson) played good D. He cut me off and forced me to go left. I just pulled up at the free-throw line and it went in.”
Moving from the left to near the free-throw line, Miller jumped with less than a second to play.
With the shot away, everyone in the Gale Bullman Multi-Purpose Building froze while watching the ball arc through the air.
Just after the horn sounded and the backboard lit up, the ball neatly swished into the basket.
Game over, Borgia wins.
And the place erupted.
Borgia’s large following celebrated loudly as the Knights repeated history and earned a trip to the Class 4 quarterfinals.
The Knights will face Republic (27-4) at Drury University’s O’Reilly Family Event Center Saturday at 1 p.m. Republic eliminated Carl Junction (19-10) Wednesday, 62-42.
Hillcrest ended its season at 22-6.
Wednesday’s matchup marked the second time in three seasons that the two schools had played in the postseason at Missouri S&T. Borgia defeated the Hornets in a 2011 Class 4 quarterfinal game, 52-42.
“It really was a tremendous win,” Neier said. “They really have a good team. To hold them to 45 points is pretty amazing. When we saw them, they were such an offensive juggernaut. They have guys who can all shoot and penetrate. They are a pretty tough team.”
Borgia’s biggest trouble in the game was overcoming Hillcrest’s hot outside shooting. The Hornets stung Borgia for nine three-point baskets in the game, many from at least a step beyond the three-point arc.
“They had multiple guys on their team who could shoot threes,” said Miller. “Pretty much everyone on their team could hit. They were hitting them from deep, so we needed to spread out and get a hand in their faces.”
Borgia hit five shots from beyond the arc, including the longest one of the game.
Miller launched a shot at the end of the first quarter from beyond the midcourt stripe and it went in to pull Borgia back to 12-10 after eight minutes of action.
“I just saw there was five seconds left,” Miller said. “I was dribbling up closer to halfcourt. I just threw it up and it banked in. That was pretty awesome. I’ll take it any day.”
Borgia rallied in a tight second quarter to take a 19-16 advantage at the intermission. The Knights were up 37-32 after three quarters.
Senior Casey Kuchem led Borgia in scoring at 16 points while hitting seven of his eight shots from the field. He hit two three-point baskets and added seven rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and a steal.
Miller closed with 14 points, two three-point baskets, three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Senior John Baumstark scored six points with three assists, two rebounds and a steal.
“John got a couple of layups and played some tenacious defense where they couldn’t get that three-point shot, and they couldn’t get around him, either,” said Neier.
Junior Joe Helfrich scored six points with six rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.
“Joe Helfrich did a great job inside along with River Filla,” Neier said. “At the end Casey Kuchem got a couple of big blocks when they penetrated. We were able to get the ball back.”
Junior Zac Schweissguth scored three points with four assists, three rebounds and a steal.
Junior Tyler Breckenkamp netted two points.
Senior River Filla (one rebound), sophomore Alex Moss (one rebound) and Birk also played in the game.
“We did a pretty good job of controlling the tempo and getting good shots on most trips,” Neier said.
Sophomore Braden Petry led the Hornets in scoring with 12 points, all which came on four three-point baskets.
Johnson netted 10 points while hitting one three-point basket.
Senior Ray Hardy Jr. netted nine points on a trio of three-point baskets.
Senior Jonah Hill scored five points.
Senior Thomas Whittaker scored three points.
Also playing were junior David McIntosh, senior Rylan Pryor and junior Matthew Howell-Rush.
The two themes of the game, shots by Miller and three-point baskets, merged in the game’s opening score, a three by Miller nearly two minutes into the contest.
After the slow start, both teams picked up the pace near the end of the quarter. Hillcrest got a basket from Johnson and a foul (he missed the free throw) and a three from Braden Petry to take a 12-7 lead.
But Miller’s long launch at the buzzer brought Borgia back to within a pair, 12-10, after eight minutes.
Down 16-12, the Knights scored the final seven points of the first half to take a 19-16 lead at the intermission. Kuchem hit a three while Breckenkamp and Schweissguth scored two-point baskets while giving Borgia the advantage.
The Knights immediately added to the lead in the second half when Baumstark went to the basket, scored and was fouled. His free throw was chopped off on a lane violation.
Braden Petry’s long shot pulled the Hornets back to within two, but Kuchem answered with a three.
Braden Petry hit two more threes in the quarter, but Borgia responded with a Miller three and four points from Helfrich. He hit one basket off a rebound and put in two free throws to keep Borgia on top.
Every time the Knights seemed to be pulling away, Hillcrest got a huge three. Near the end of the quarter, Kuchem scored off a rebound to give Borgia an eight-point edge, 37-32, but Johnson scored from beyond the arc to make it 37-32 after three quarters.
Hardy opened the fourth quarter with a three-point shot to cut the lead to two, but the Knights answered with baskets by Baumstark and Kuchem.
Another three by Austin Petry cut the gap to 41-38.
From there, Borgia went cold. The Knights looked to run clock while Hillcrest took advantage of every Borgia possession which ended without a shot.
Hill scored, was fouled and hit his free throw to give the Hornets a 42-41 edge with 3:09 remaining in the game.
Down by a point and on defense, the Knights got a steal by Miller and he found Schweissguth breaking for the basket.
Schweissguth’s layup missed, but Kuchem was there to follow and Borgia led 43-42 with 1:28 remaining.
Hillcrest failed on its attempts and was forced to foul. Miller hit one with 52.8 seconds to play and Schweissguth hit another with 40.1 seconds left, making it 45-42.
After another Hillcrest turnover, the Hornets fouled Baumstark with 23.5 seconds to play. He missed both and the Hornets set up a shot by Hardy with 10.5 seconds to go. His three knotted the game, setting up Borgia’s final play.