It had been a while since we’ve seen the Washington and Borgia rivalry as intense as we saw last Saturday night.
Considering what was on the line, the Gold Division championship of the Turkey Tournament, there was plenty of excitement for the game.
Actually, there could have been absolutely nothing at stake and the gym still would have been full and the anticipation high.
The two schools did not play against each other in varsity boys basketball last season and haven’t met in varsity football for the past few seasons.
As another intense rivalry game, the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn, was just wrapping up in unbelievable fashion, the Blue Jays and Knights were preparing to take the floor before a packed Ray DeGreeff Gymnasium.
In our little world, this was the rivalry game we were most looking forward to.
Heck, we had brothers Adam Meyer (Washington) and Luke Meyer (Borgia) facing off as assistant coaches. Can Alabama and Auburn say that?
“To have this kind of crowd is a benefit for our tournament,” said Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier. “We look at it as a huge plus for both schools and the community.”
It was the first time Washington and Borgia have met in the Turkey Tournament. The two teams usually are separated into different divisions.
“It was a fun atmosphere,” said Washington Head Coach Grant Young. “Coaches, players and fans don’t get too many of those. It was great for the kids to have a chance to experience this.”
Washington senior guard Brad Carpenter, one of the top three-point snipers in the area who already has signed to play golf at Missouri State University, was named the MVP of the Gold Division.
“We didn’t get a chance to play Borgia last year. We wanted that chance, but it didn’t happen. I’m glad we got to play them my senior year,” Carpenter said. “It’s unlike any other high school game. It was an awesome environment. The crowd was electric.”
Indeed it was. Both student sections were out in full force and represented their schools well.
The game was extremely competitive, as everyone expected.
The Knights had the early lead, and led by as many as eight points midway through the third quarter.
But the Blue Jays caught fire, went on a 13-0 run, and held on for the 53-46 win.
Carpenter and fellow senior Ronnie Suggs, a future Missouri Tiger, made some big shots down the stretch.
“It was very exciting. For us not to play them last year, it was a downer because we usually play them at least once a year,” Suggs said. “The last time we played them, we lost by like 30, so I was really anxious to play this game and glad we won.”
Borgia had the advantage for 2 1/2 quarters. Joe Helfrich was a beast on the inside. Walt Eckelkamp made some big shots.
But the Knights went cold in the last 12 minutes.
That’s basketball. It happens.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we showed a lot of promise in a lot of areas. This team showed they’re going to go out and play hard every night,” Neier said. “We know we have to shoot the ball better. That’s something we’ll continue to work on. We had some kids come off the bench and play some great roles for us, so I think we’re going to create some depth as the year goes along.”
While Borgia went cold, Washington got hot.
“Coach told us at halftime that we needed to do a better job on the boards. They were beating us on the offensive glass and the defensive glass,” Carpenter said. “We boxed out better and made some adjustments on defense with guarding some guys. Helfrich was hurting us in the high post. We needed to stop him.”
The Blue Jays are off to a great start under their new coaches, Young and Meyer.
“We love Coach Young and it’s been awesome playing for him so far. He’s a lot more vocal. He gets us ready to go,” Carpenter said.
“Coach (Young) is very loud, way louder than Coach (Chip) Sodemann. He gets his message out. He’s a fun guy,” Suggs added.
“I’m really proud of our kids for playing together early in the season. Learning a new system and being able to shoot well early shows the kids put time in the offseason,” Young said. “Now we need to build off this early success and want more.”
Maybe the Blue Jays and the Knights will play each other again in another tournament this season, or maybe they won’t.
Either way, Saturday night kind of marked the official start of the high school basketball season, and it should be a good one.
Washington and Borgia both will have solid seasons. Pacific is going to be good. Union is better than some of us expected. St. Clair has talent, a very good coach and will only get better.