The leftovers have been cleaned up and the 60th Annual St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Cola Thanksgiving Tournament is history.
For many, this was one of the strongest tournaments the school has sponsored with plenty of talent from top to bottom.
Tournament champion St. Louis Christian, making its first visit to the tournament, was an exceptional team. In fact, some of the folks who have been closely attached to the tournament for a long time feel this is one of the most talented teams to come along.
The Cougars feature height that many colleges would love to have. One saw a multitude of different college logos around when the Cougars played.
With the exception of senior point guard Revaun Garaway, Christian ran a starting lineup with the smallest player being 6-4 Rasheed Swanston. The tallest was 6-11 Ikkena Okwarabezi.
The fans from St. Louis Christian supported their team and the school brought more fans than the typical squad making the trip out from St. Louis.
The coaching staff, led by Casey Autenrieth, and the administration also made friends in their sojourn in Washington.
Don’t expect to see Christian at the state tournament in Columbia though. While the Cougars played at Borgia, they’re only an MSHSAA affiliate member, meaning that they don’t play in the postseason. They’ll be the likely winner at the Missouri Christian Schools Athletic Association event next spring in Joplin though.
So, is Christian the most talented team to play in the Turkey Tournament in recent years?
Just going back over the past few seasons, the title of most talented team probably would go to the 2010-11 McCluer North Stars. The eventual Class 5 state champions ran past everyone in the 58th Annual Turkey Tournament. They hit triple digits against Carnahan in the opening round, beat a talented Maplewood-Richmond Heights team by 21 in the semifinals and rolled up to 92 points in a track meet against University City in the title game.
The 2010-11 Stars featured two big-time Division I recruits in B.J. Young (Arkansas) and Jordon Granger (Auburn). They had the quickness and speed to get the ball to shooters and were able to convert.
Young recorded a triple-double in the championship game that year with 43 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds. That stands as one of the all-time best performances in the history of the event. Granger ended that game with 21 points, 20 rebounds, six blocked shots, four steals and two assists.
I think a lot of folks would love to see Christian and that 2010 McCluer North team play a game. Would be a great one, but I think the Stars would have the edge in depth over a fast-paced game. Christian had height, but only used seven players in the championship game victory over the Washington Blue Jays.
Washington had to be one of the big surprises in the tournament. Of course, having a healthy Ronnie Suggs (he missed it last year) really helped. Suggs made his mark with 36 points in the opening round win over Cardinal Ritter and picked up 22 points against Christian in the title contest.
The great thing about the Blue Jays is that they have so many role players who can step up and become the star on any given night.
Luke Schroepfer has been a solid player throughout his entire career. Brad Carpenter can’t be left alone outside the arc or he’ll burn a team for many threes. Jared Walde is a true monster in the paint. Luke Hasenjaeger understands that he needs to feed the ball to the scorers and find openings in the defense.
There are a number of others who step up as well. Chip Sodemann has a wonderful team and hopefully this should lead to a successful season.
Every year we hear that McCluer North isn’t coming back and I hope that’s not the case. The Stars make this tournament exceptionally competitive. The fact they were playing for third place shows how tough this tournament is. Rashad Lindsey just picked it right back up after moving from MICDS to McCluer North. And Randy Reed has some other gems in Jordan Boone and Dorrian Holland, to name a couple.
Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said that the Stars are supposed to be adding a 6-6 player soon. If the Stars can add some size, they might make some noise again in the Class 5 playoffs.
How often does Borgia not earn a trophy in its own tournament? Well, the last time the Knights placed as low as fourth was 1986.
At that time, the Soviet Union was still a major threat, the city of Washington was preparing to renovate the old railroad depot buildings and you could get a new two-door Chevrolet Cavalier from Modern Auto for $8,098.
Borgia should be a good team before the season is over. For the first time in a while, they don’t have a returning standout, but have three players with returning varsity experience. Borgia’s comeback win over Carnahan was huge, but the Knights couldn’t replicate those heroics against either Christian or McCluer North. Those setbacks should make Borgia better for the long run and everyone knows this veteran coaching staff will be prepared by the time the district tournament rolls around.
Cardinal Ritter and Carnahan played for the consolation title and were tightly matched. The Ritter Lions, led by another coaching legend in Marvin Neals, showed tremendous improvement throughout the event.
Before the tournament, Carnahan Head Coach Jonathan Griffin said his team might have the potential to go to state. If the Cougars can cut out the late-game comebacks they allowed against Borgia and Cardinal Ritter, that could be the case. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them play in the Class 3 playoffs, although a rematch wouldn’t happen until the tournament reached Columbia.
Of all teams to play Christian, Pacific probably gave the Cougars their toughest fight. The defending Four Rivers Conference champions will be good again this year. Cullen VanLeer is an exceptional shooter and only is a sophomore. And the Indians have a number of other players who can step up on any given night.
St. Clair seemed to suffer from a slow start in the opening game against McCluer North, being shut out through a quarter. I suspect new Head Coach Casey Korn will have this team playing much better ball by the time the conference schedule rolls around.
The 61st Turkey Tournament stands to be even better. Brad Bruns has been extremely active in trying to figure out how to improve the event. As Neier stated, Bruns did an exceptional job in running the event and making sure it was one to remember.
Three of us in the media community, Craig Vonder Haar of the Missourian, John Covington from KLPW, and I need to thank him, and Borgia’s athletic association, for the surprise on Friday night. It was nice to be recognized for the work in helping to get the word out about the Turkey Tournament.
A couple of Turkey Tournament alumni also were making news this week.
When Jack Taylor scored 138 points for Grinnell College last week in a 179-104 win over Faith Baptist Bible, Borgia graduate Evan Johnson set picks for him over three minutes of play.
Johnson, a sophomore, recorded one rebound in that game. Through four games this season, Johnson averages one point per game (all four points were scored against Rockford College Nov. 16).
It should be noted that Taylor went back to the bench for Grinnell’s 131-116 loss to William Penn Sunday, scoring “only” 21 points over 17 minutes.
Johnson played 11 minutes in that game and didn’t score.
Bryce Dolan, Borgia’s leading scorer last season, averages four points per game for Illinois Wesleyan, an NCAA Division III school. Dolan has averaged 12 minutes per game while seeing action in two of the team’s first four contests.