By Bill Battle
Missourian Sports Editor
Borgia’s return to the Union Tournament isn’t going unnoticed.
The Knights (12-3) opened the event with a 69-25 victory over eighth-seeded Crystal City Monday. Borgia, seeded first, will take on Lutheran South in the semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m.
“It’s nice playing in this beautiful gym again,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “Our kids came out and played hard right from the beginning. We were able to put some pressure on them and get a few turnovers at the beginning and a few easy baskets. That opened things up for us.”
The game with Lutheran South will rekindle a rivalry born during some memorable sectional games back in the ’90s when it seemed that the two programs almost always matched up at Mineral Area College in the first round beyond the district level.
“We know we’re going to see good competition in the Union Tournament,” Neier said. “This is another chance for our kids to get out and play hard.”
Borgia tuned up for the Union Tournament by rolling past Archdiocesan Athletic Association Small Division school Kennedy Friday in Manchester, 67-44.
The Knights jumped out to a 20-8 lead after one quarter and were up 37-24 at the intermission.
Through three quarters, Borgia held a 50-35 lead.
“At times we played great,” Neier said. “At times, we played mediocre. When we really played well, we went on some good runs. We had a really good run to finally put it away late in the third quarter into the fourth quarter.”
Neier praised his interior players.
“I thought we did a good job of getting the ball inside,” Neier said. “We had some real good interior passing.”
Senior Joe Helfrich led the forwards in scoring with 18 points and added four assists.
Senior Kevin Birk ended with 12 points to go with four assists.
“Kevin hit a three, three layups and offensively really had a good game,” Neier said.
Senior Adam Meyer scored nine points with five assists.
But it wasn’t all the big players getting into the action.
Sophomore Walton Eckelkamp led the guards with 14 points.
Senior Zac Schweissguth netted five points.
Senior Tyler Breckenkamp scored four points and junior Clayton Voss added three points.
Kennedy was paced by Sam Stewart, who scored 22 points with nine rebounds and two steals.
Kyle Husak scored 10 points with five rebounds, two blocked shots and two assists for the Celts.
Borgia, which left the Ameritime Classic to come back to Union, opened against the bottom-seeded Crystal City team.
At one time, Crystal City was basketball royalty when Bill Bradley played there. But times have changed since he terrorized opposing defenses.
This year’s Hornets came in as the last seed in the Union Tournament and Borgia didn’t take long in making sure the outcome was decided.
Borgia netted the first six points of the game and led 19-5 after eight minutes of action.
“We missed a few easy shots at the beginning, but we kept giving ourselves opportunities by playing defense and making it tough for them to score,” Neier said. “Whenever we scored, we were able to press and cause turnovers.”
The Knights continued to find the basket while rotating many players into the game during the second quarter. Borgia led 38-9 at the intermission and 59-20 after three quarters.
Nine different Knights scored in the game.
Leading the charge was Meyer, who had 12 points. Breckenkamp hit a trio of three-point baskets to close with 11 and Schweissguth added 10.
Helfrich posted nine points. Eckelkamp had seven, Voss closed with six, Birk and sophomore Luke DeLine scored five points each and Spencer Juergens added four points.
Dylan Zeiter led Crystal City with nine points. Andrew Sawdy contributed eight points.
Jon Miller, Cody Imfeld, Ke’ion Prater and Matt Eisenbeis each had two points.