Do you believe in miracles?
Borgia basketball fans do after watching the Knights rally from a 16-point first-half deficit Thursday to defeat Carnahan School of the Future in the opening round of the 60th Annual St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Cola Thanksgiving Tournament, 61-60.
“We came out and put a little more pressure on them,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said about the halftime adjustments. “We made sure we knew where their shooters were and tried to make it a little tougher for them to get easy shots, especially from the threes.”
Borgia then adjusted to the changing pace of the game.
“We kept rotating people and we finally found a combination which clicked,” Neier said. “They went after it. When things slowed down, we put other kids in. One of the things that really helped us out was our bench strength. We had kids who really contributed off the bench.”
When the Knights gained momentum, Borgia was able to start cutting into the deficit.
“Once we started coming back, our kids got a little more excited,” said Neier. “They played a little bit harder. Carnahan was trying to switch defenses and we got a couple of easy buckets. Then, we started hitting outside shots and that made a difference. We put a little more pressure on them with the press and started getting after them. They handled the ball pretty well, but sometimes we got a steal on the other end or made them take a quick shot. The ball wasn’t going down for them as easy in the second half as it did in the first half.”
Borgia, the second seed, faced a large early deficit against the seventh-seeded Cougars.
Carnahan controlled most of the game, leading 18-11 after one quarter and 38-25 at the intermission.
“We just made a ton of mistakes,” Neier said.
The Cougars were up 32-16 after Imani Reed hit the team’s sixth three-point basket of the first half midway through the second quarter.
“He shot the ball very well,” Neier said.
Borgia rallied late in the second quarter to cut three points off that deficit in the half and came out strong in the second half.
The Knights finally found their three-point shooting range in the third quarter after being shut out from beyond the arc in the first half. That helped Borgia go on an 11-point run to trim the deficit to 46-44 at the conclusion of the third quarter.
And Borgia had a chance to tie at the end of the quarter, but its attempt to score missed.
Carnahan lost Trevor Roberts to fouls 30 seconds into the fourth quarter on a charge, but Steven Baynham hit the first two shots to give the Cougars a seven-point lead. Baynham’s three-point basket made it 51-44.
Alex Moss found his range from beyond the arc twice to cut it to 53-50.
“Alex Moss came in and hit a couple of big threes.” Neier stated.
Casey Kuchem then hit a three-point basket to tie the game at 53-53.
Eric Williams of Carnahan scored off his own rebound with 3:09 to play to put the Cougars up once again, 55-53.
Jordan Miller hit two free throws with 2:49 left in the game to knot the score at 55-55.
Down the stretch, Borgia turned to Joe Helfrich to score close to the basket. He hit three shots, including a basket with 1:03 to play to give Borgia a 59-57 advantage.
Reed hit another long three with 45.3 seconds to play to give Carnahan the lead again, 60-59.
Borgia pushed the ball back inside to Helfrich again and he scored with 18 seconds to play.
Carnahan called a timeout with 10.3 seconds left to set up a final play. A shot missed and the ball was batted down the floor. The clock expired, but the officials ruled that 1.1 seconds needed to be put back onto the clock. The Cougars got the ball to Williams, who put up a long shot which bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
Eight different Knights scored in the game with three reaching double figures. Helfrich and Kuchem each had 12 points while John Baumstark closed with 11.
“John Baumstark had some turnovers in the first half,” Neier said. “But the aggressiveness he showed in the second half playing defense and getting a couple of easy buckets definitely made up for any mistakes he made in the first half.”
River Filla and Miller each scored eight points. Moss closed with six and Adam Meyer and Tyler Breckenkamp each had two points.
Others played huge roles as well.
“Zach Schweissguth came in off the bench and did what he was supposed to do,” Neier said. “Tyler Breckenkamp played some good basketball. River Filla had a sensational game spelling Joe Helfrich, who had two quick fouls. River was really aggressive in there. Kevin Birk defensively played some good ball and passed the ball well. He doesn’t panic. He talks and gets the team up. We had so many people contribute. Everyone who came in contributed.”
Reed led all scorers with 20 points, including five three-point baskets.
Dejon Shelton scored 12 points, Baynham ended with nine, Williams and Raymond Homes each scored eight and Trevor Roberts scored three points.
The Knights play St. Louis Christian in the last semifinal game of the night Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“No matter what direction you go in this tournament, you’re going to have some great competition.” Neier said. “I just think there’s some really good basketball in this tournament. If people want to see good basketball, they should come up here Friday and Saturday. There will be no easy games and some great matchups.”
Carnahan takes on Pacific at 4:30 p.m. in a consolation semifinal.