It was everything a first-round game between middle seeds is supposed to be.
In the end, fourth-seeded Borgia secured a 53-40 win over No. 5 Union in the opening round of the Union Tournament Tuesday, but the game was much closer than that.
“We knew coming in that Union has a really strong team,” Borgia Head Coach Stacia Parsell said. “It was going to take a lot for us to come out and win tonight.”
Union Head Coach Grant Young said a shooting drought hurt Union’s chances.
“I thought we did OK in the first half,” Young said. “I thought we beat ourselves up a little bit in the second quarter shooting the ball.”
Borgia (8-3) advanced to meet Sullivan in Friday’s semifinal contest.
“Each one, we have to take away a little more,” Parsell said about the second meeting this season between the two teams. “Sullivan still is the best team in the area and it’s going to take a lot to beat them.”
Union (9-4) played Madison Prep in the consolation semifinals Thursday.
“I hope we can come in with a little fire being on the losers’ side of the bracket,” Young said. “We’ve had a great season so far. It shouldn’t be a disappointment, but maybe this is a good turning game to show that we need to move onto the next game and not worry about how we did the previous game.”
The game drew interest at all levels, from watching Parsell match strategy with Young, both MBCA Richard Fairchild Coach of the Year winners in 2011, to the action on the floor.
Borgia ended up winning the game by getting strong inside play at both ends of the floor and key contributions from players normally not in the spotlight.
Union countered with a strong inside game led by senior Rachael Bassett, who is closing in on 1,000 points for her career.
The host Lady ’Cats also had a strong outside shooting presence during the first half and rotated a number of players into the game to take advantage of its deeper bench.
Union’s outside shooting success wavered in the second half, another key factor in the game’s outcome.
“We really were dry shooting the whole second half,” Young said. “We couldn’t buy a bucket. We had some great looks inside and couldn’t get the ball to fall. The good thing is that our kids didn’t give up, but I think they’re a little disappointed with their effort because they know they didn’t play to the best of their ability tonight.”
Katie Lindemann led Borgia with 15 points while helping to control the game around the basket.
“Katie Lindemann did an excellent job with Rachael Bassett,” Parsell said. “I know Rachael probably had her average tonight, if not a little more, but the other things Katie was able to do helped. Three times in a row they tried to get the ball inside to Rachael and Katie was able to deflect the ball or get a steal off of it. That’s what we expect out of her and she lived up to that.”
Molly Arand stepped into a scoring role with 12 points in one of her best offensive nights of the year.
“Molly did an excellent job handling the ball, understanding the defense that was coming at her and not turning the ball over,” Parsell said. “She did a fantastic job as a sophomore. And she did a good job scoring, too.”
Young said Arand played a key role in Borgia’s win.
“Molly Arand stepped up tonight and made some big shots for them,” Young said. “She had a big game for them.”
Janie Arand missed most of the second half due to foul trouble, but still scored 10 points.
“We had a lot of foul trouble and had our best player off the floor for most of the night,” said Parsell.
Cassandra Halsted netted eight points while helping Lindemann limit Union’s inside game.
“Cassandra is getting better every game she plays as a sophomore,” Parsell said. “She’s understanding where she needs to be.”
Baylee Godat came off the bench to play considerable time with others in foul trouble. She ended with four points.
“Baylee could have been the player of the game for us tonight,” Parsell said. “She was able to maintain and score.”
Emily Grahl also netted four points for the Lady Knights.
Playing, but not scoring, were Morgan Spradling and Madison Wehking.
“Morgan Spradling came in and did a really good job off the bench for us,” said Parsell. “Madison Wehking was able to come into the game and help.”
Bassett moved closer to the 1,000-point mark with 12 points. She shared the scoring lead with Alyssa Coons, who hit three of Union’s five three-point baskets.
“Rachael is our anchor in the post,” Young said. “We know we have to get her as many post touches because that will open it up for us outside.”
Bethany Coons and Whitney Vitt scored six points apiece. Coons came off the bench and scored on the fast break and while driving to the net. Vitt hit two three-point baskets early in the game.
Abbie Brack scored four points for Union.
Playing, but not scoring, were Megan Altemueller, Anna Houston, Jill Johnston and Briana Lakebrink.
Borgia took the opening tip and held the ball for the first minute while attempting two shots. Union was able to withstand that pressure and score first.
Union led for much of the first quarter before Borgia got a three-point basket by Janie Arand to take a 16-15 lead after one quarter.
After slow play to start the game, both teams got three-point baskets to pick up the scoring pace through the quarter.
In the second quarter, Borgia ran into foul trouble. Grahl picked up her second foul and Janie Arand recorded her third foul on a charge with 3:44 to play in the half. That forced Parsell to dig into her bench to find quality replacements.
“I thought we did a great job on Janie in the second and third quarters,” Young said. “We helped over on her drive and got her into foul trouble early.”
Halsted broke a 22-22 tie, scoring with 37.6 seconds left in the half, to give Borgia a 24-22 edge at the intermission.
“We had 11 turnovers in the first half and had trouble handling the ball,” Young said. “A lot of that was due to their defensive pressure.”
Halsted and Lindemann played a key role in clamping down on Bassett. Union was unable to capitalize with outside shooting and that showed in the third quarter.
Godat started the third quarter in place of Janie Arand, and filled in admirably as Parsell tried to shield Arand from further foul issues. However, Arand picked up her fourth foul within 45 seconds of stepping onto the floor late in the quarter.
Borgia held a comfortable advantage throughout most of the quarter. Alyssa Coons hit a pair of three-point baskets to pull Union back to trailing by two at the end of the quarter.
In the early part of the fourth quarter, Union was able to catch up on a Bassett basket. Borgia got a three by Grahl from the top of the key. Bethany Coons then scored to bring Union back to within a point, 37-36.
Borgia countered with a 10-point run which put the game out of reach. And every basket seemed to be a dagger in Union’s chances.
Halsted scored off of Borgia’s third offensive rebound. Godat hit a shot just inside the arc and Molly Arand followed with a three. Grahl was fouled and hit one free throw, but the second one went to Lindemann, who scored on the putback.
Union had a chance to jump back into the game with over three minutes to play, but needed to hit baskets.
“We wanted to make that game-winning shot when we probably should have been a little more patient and worked our way back into the game,” Young said.
The Lady ’Cats couldn’t. Bassett added two baskets from near the bucket to give Union its final scoring. Borgia, meanwhile, hit free throws to ice the game.