After watching crosstown rival Washington dominate O’Fallon Christian in the first game of Thanksgiving, the Borgia basketball Knights followed suit with a 67-54 win over Miller Career Academy in the nightcap.
“We were very fortunate to get a contest of this sort,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “They don’t quit. They get on top of you and force you into turnovers and to keep playing hard. We know that we’ve got to continue to get better.”
Borgia (2-0) will play Washington for the Gold Division championship in the 61st St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“It really will be an interesting game,” Neier said. “They’ve been playing some sensational ball here. We’ve got a lot of work to do to find ways to stop them defensively. They’re very tenacious on defense. They hit the boards. They do a lot of things very well. Just to have an opportunity to play in such a big game early in the season is something we really look to in helping us out for playing in other big games. Hopefully we will be ready to use our energy in the right way. It will be a great experience for the kids.”
The Knights had a much closer fight against Miller Career Academy and had to fight for every point against an aggressive Phoenix defense.
Miller Career Academy led 13-12 after one quarter and Borgia held a 29-27 advantage at the intermission.
With the game tied at 29-29, Borgia ripped off a six-point run on baskets by seniors Joe Helfrich, Adam Meyer and Zac Schweissguth and that proved to be just enough of a break to leave Borgia in front for the rest of the game.
“We made mistakes, but we made it up with our hustle,” Neier said. “We were able to force them into some turnovers with our press early in the game.”
Borgia had to come up with some more magic just to add to the lead in the third quarter. Junior Jake Neier and sophomore Walton Eckelkamp hit back-to-back threes to help the Knights lead 49-37 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, Borgia continued to use its depth to grind away at a tired Miller Career Academy squad. Not only did the Phoenix play at Borgia Wednesday night (beating St. Clair, 86-63), but it lost Tuesday to Lift for Life, 70-66.
Additionally, Miller Career Academy had key losses. Junior Ronald Franklin left the game in the third quarter, suffering what appeared to be a foot or ankle injury.
Senior Marcel Lee fouled out of the game with 2:04 to play. He had been in foul trouble for much of the second half before leaving.
“We were lucky we had a lead in that fourth quarter because they came storming back and hit some threes from really long range,” Neier said. “They got hot and we didn’t do a very good job of getting out and covering them.”
Lee and Franklin had combined for 17 points for the Phoenix, according to the official tournament book. Franklin had 12 while Lee added five. However, Lee was a key player both passing the ball and on defense and his loss forced Head Coach Kelvin Lee to dip into the bench.
For the second game in a row, Borgia used its considerable depth to its advantage and nine different Knights got into the scoring column.
Schweissguth led the way with 21 points.
Eckelkamp scored 13 points, including an alley-oop dunk in the first quarter.
Helfrich scored nine points and played a huge role near the basket, pulling down 15 rebounds in the contest.
“We haven’t had a kid get that many rebounds in a while,” Neier said.
Meyer, a defensive standout, scored nine points as well.
Senior Tyler Breckenkamp scored six points on two three-point shots.
Jake Neier netted three points. Senior Kevin Birk, junior Kevin Juergens and sophomore Luke DeLine each had two points.
“It was a sensational job from all of our kids,” Neier said.
For Miller Career Academy, junior Dashan Haynes tied for the team’s scoring lead with 12 points. Senior Rashad Jordan netted 11 points while senior Rashid Bivens scored eight points and junior Cedric Benbow added six.
Miller Career Academy will play Union for third place in the Gold Division Saturday at 3 p.m.