Borgia Reaches Quarterfinals

Borgia's Joe Helfrich works inside the lane during the Knights' Class 4 sectional win over Marshfield.

Same opponent, different venue.

The Borgia basketball Knights (19-8) will take aim at knocking off defending Class 4 state champion Republic (24-4) Saturday in MSHSAA Class 4 quarterfinal action Saturday.

“You know they’re going to be tough,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “They won the state championship last year. They’re going to be hungry again. They’ve got a lot of players back from last year, so they know what it’s like to win. We’re playing down in their area again, so hopefully we travel well, play well and give ourselves a chance.”

The game is scheduled to tip off at 1:45 p.m. at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. It follows a girls game between Marshfield and Republic, which starts at noon.

For those looking for directions to the venue, the gym is located near the intersection of Anderson Drive and S. Pike Avenue. Expect to spend at least three hours on the road one way.

The Borgia-Republic game is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal round which was played almost in Republic’s backyard at Drury University in Springfield. Republic went on to win the state championship after that 46-33 quarterfinal win.

“We definitely remember how that felt last year,” Borgia senior guard Zac Schweissguth said. “We were with them and they pulled away in the fourth quarter. We hope things turn out differently this time.”

Republic has not lost to a Class 4 team this season. The Tigers lost twice to Waynesville and twice to Nixa.

Republic features others who saw key minutes last year. Borgia fans will remember Cody Geiger, a 6-4 senior, who tore Borgia up inside last season.

Geiger has signed with Evangel.

Brock Yocum, a 5-11 junior guard, who led Republic with 26 points in the game, is another key player for the Tigers. He sealed Republic’s win over Carl Junction Wednesday by going 12-12 from the free-throw line during the fourth quarter.

Dylan Bekemeier, a 6-0 senior guard, is another key returner from last year’s state championship squad.

Canyon Smith, a 6-0 senior guard, is another player to watch for the Tigers and is a threat to score from beyond the three-point arc.

Borgia has a bit of an edge as well. Last year, Borgia sophomores Walton Eckelkamp and Luke DeLine were watching the quarterfinal game from the stands. This year, both are key starters.

“I watched them last year and I can’t wait to play them this year,” Eckelkamp said.

“I think it’s going to be pretty special,” DeLine said. “They knocked us out last year and we’re going to do our best to prepare for this game.”

Borgia’s youth movement and usage of depth has played a key role in the team’s surge through the playoffs. Neier isn’t afraid to send anyone onto the floor during any point during the game. As most opposing teams are shortening their benches, the Knights are using a flood of fresh players to wear down opponents.