Keep calm and carry on.
It was more than just a British World War II poster for the Borgia basketball Knights. It was how they were able to win Thursday’s Class 4 District 9 semifinal over St. Clair, 44-35, in Pacific.
The Knights (18-8) trailed by four points late in the third quarter, but never panicked and emerged with the nine-point victory.
“Defense kept us in the game,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “In the third quarter, they took over and played with a lot of energy. We made mistakes on both ends of the floor. We rectified that in the fourth quarter. We were able to get the lead back and protect it by hitting free throws.”
St. Clair Head Coach Casey Korn was happy with his team’s effort.
“It was a heck of a game,” Korn said. “We came out playing hard but were a little nervous. Our guys responded really well and we played our hearts out. There was never any quit from them.”
Borgia will meet third-seeded Sullivan (19-8) in the championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“Sullivan plays very tenacious defense,” Neier said. “They are exceptionally quick. We have to handle the ball, move on offense and hit our shots. They do a good job putting pressure on the ball. Defensively, we’ve got to play tough.”
St. Clair ended its season at 13-14. The Bulldogs knocked off Union in the opening round after tying for the Four Rivers Conference title this season.
Borgia hadn’t played a game since Feb. 9, but it didn’t stop the team from racing out to an 11-2 lead.
St. Clair scored the next six points before Borgia’s Zac Schweissguth scored the final two baskets of the quarter, including one at the buzzer, to give the Knights a 15-8 advantage.
Borgia led by as much as nine points in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs were able to trim it back to a 23-16 game at the intermission.
In the third quarter, St. Clair came out swinging. The Bulldogs went on a 9-2 run to tie the game with 3:24 left in the quarter, 25-25. A three-point basket by Adam Brott tied the score.
Will Rolley scored off a rebound with 2:05 to play in the quarter and Neyko Dominguez added a basket and St. Clair led 29-25 with 1:32 remaining in the third quarter.
“They have a very talented team,” Neier said. “They are very strong inside. Dominguez can penetrate and shoot off the dribble, hit the outside shots or make the passes. They have good size and that helps them out on the boards.”
Borgia got two free throws from Schweissguth and a basket from Casey Kuchem, but St. Clair added an Evan Murphy basket to hold a 31-29 lead after three quarters.
Things changed in the fourth quarter. St. Clair managed four points in the fourth quarter while the Knights scored 15 to seal the game.
Borgia’s Jordan Miller hit a basket to tie it, but Dominguez put the Bulldogs back on top with 5:21 left in the game.
Schweissguth came through again, giving Borgia the lead it would not relinquish. He then hit a three-point shot with 4:08 left in the contest to make it a 36-33.
Borgia’s defense stepped up and made key stops. St. Clair got to within a basket again at 38-35 after Dominguez scored with 1:06 to play, but that was the end of scoring for the Bulldogs.
Borgia sealed the game at the free-throw line, hitting five of six chances in the final minute to win the game, 44-35.
Miller led the Knights in scoring with 18 points while adding four assists, four steals and three rebounds.
“Jordan didn’t have a good night shooting threes, but he stepped up and contributed scoring in other ways,” Neier said.
Schweissguth stepped up to contribute 15 points and two rebounds.
“Zac really did some good things for us,” Neier said. “He hit a key three in the fourth quarter to put us ahead. I think that made them play faster than they really wanted.”
From there, the Knights got players who filled roles and did what was needed to earn the win.
Joe Helfrich scored four points with six rebounds and a steal.
Kuchem ended with four points, nine rebounds, two steals and an assist despite missing most of the first half due to foul trouble.
“Casey had a very good night on the boards,” Neier said.
Kevin Birk scored two points and contributed defensively.
“Kevin handled the ball for us and did a nice job,” Neier said.
River Filla netted Borgia’s final point and added three steals and two rebounds. He played a major defensive role in the final quarter.
“River played smart and within himself,” Neier said.
John Baumstark ended with four rebounds and two steals.
Tyler Breckenkamp, Alex Moss and Adam Meyer also played.
Dominguez led the Bulldogs with 17 points and was the only St. Clair player to score in all four quarters. He fouled out with 8.4 seconds to play and was one of two Bulldogs to exit via fouls.
“Offensively Neyko played another efficient game,” Korn said. “He took shots he knew he could make.”
Brott scored five points.
Evan Murphy, who scored four points, was the other St. Clair player to foul out.
“Evan Murphy and Adam Brott were amazing on the defensive end of the floor,” Korn said. “Those two have been great all year on defense. Overall I thought our defense was great.”
Also ending with four points was Brandon York.
Rolley added two points.
The Bulldogs graduate eight players from this year’s team. Seniors are Austin Gotway, Dominguez, Coty DeClue, Brott, Evan Powell, Rolley, York and Murphy.
“I was so proud of our efforts,” Korn said. “Those kids gave everything they had all game long. Our team just kept improving all year long and that is a statement to those kids and how they were learning and adjusting to their to their roles and starting to excel at them.”