It wasn’t pretty.
It was smart.
Ameritime Classic top seed Hazelwood Central rallied past Borgia Wednesday in the semifinals, 32-29, to end Borgia’s five-game winning streak.
“I think it was a great effort by our kids,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “They played hard the whole game.”
Neier indicated that every mistake was amplified in such a tight game.
“We made a few mistakes which really ended up costing us,” Neier said. “Against a team like that, if you take a bad shot or make a turnover, it’s usually a layup at the other end for them because they are so quick and fast. They have great size where they could throw over the top of us. Their guards are very aggressive with the ball. Those few opportunities hurt us. Overall, I thought we played some pretty good ball. We just didn’t hit shots the way we have. We ran plays against them and got open shots. We just couldn’t knock some of them down.”
Borgia (11-7) plays Parkway West (9-8) Friday at 7 p.m. at Missouri Baptist University in the tournament’s third-place game.
Hazelwood Central (14-3) will follow by playing DeSmet (12-5) in the event’s title contest at 8:30 p.m.
“The main thing for us is that we’re playing great competition and good basketball,” Neier said. “We’re giving ourselves the chance to win. We just hope we can keep that up on Friday against a good team. It’s going to be a great contest for us.”
It’s the second year in a row that Borgia and Parkway West have met each other in the final round. Last year, Borgia beat Parkway West, 53-37, to win the seventh-place game.
Parkway West, the event host, will be trying to end the event with a win after falling to DeSmet Wednesday in the other semifinal, 69-43.
The Longhorns were led in scoring by 6-1 junior guard Jake Socha, who scored 13 points, including seven free throws.
Borgia led for much of the game against the Hawks. The Knights led 10-8 after one quarter and 16-13 at the half.
“We did hit some shots,” Neier said. “Having a lead on them at the half was huge. If we could have come out and got hot in the second half it would have been great. We feel we let a great opportunity slip by. We could have had a great upset here if we could have just come out and played a little better and shot a little better in the second half.”
Picked up by a 9-2 run over the last part of the third quarter, Hazelwood Central took a 28-24 lead to the fourth quarter.
And that’s where the strategy came into play.
Hawks Stall Game
Jordan Miller nailed a basket to pull the Knights back to 28-26, but the Hawks went into a stall game with Demetrius Tippett dribbling the ball near the center stripe for over two minutes.
Borgia was reluctant to stretch its defense to force Tippett to make a move. The inactivity prompted fans to try to get things moving by yelling at Tippett, who laughed at some of the barbs.
Hazelwood Central finally put the ball into play with just over three minutes to go and executed a crisp play to produce a layup by Majuan Bates to make it 30-26.
“We were hoping that would be to our benefit because our kids were tired and it gave them a couple of minutes to relax and catch their breath,” Neier said. “We really wanted to get a stop there. They got into their offense and we didn’t do a very good job of getting back into our defense. They attacked the basket and got a layup. We feel at the time if we could have just stopped them there, the game was in our favor. We would have had the momentum if we would have kept them from scoring. Unfortunately, they got to the basket and put us down by four.”
After getting the ball back, the Hawks again used smart strategy to try to keep the ball away from the Knights. This time, Borgia had to resort to foul and finally put the Hawks on the line with 40.1 seconds to play. Tippett hit both free throws to make it 32-26.
Borgia wasn’t finished. Casey Kuchem hit a three-point shot, his third of the game, to pull Borgia back to a one-possession game, 32-29.
And the Knights fouled to gain possession. This time, Hazelwood Central players helped the cause by missing free throws.
But the Hawks weren’t about to let Borgia attempt to tie the game. Twice in the final seven seconds, the Hawks fouled and put Borgia players on the line in the bonus situation. The Hazelwood Central leadership knew that Borgia could not tie the game in that fashion and had confidence in its taller players to rebound any misses.
Neither team hit a free throw in the last 16.6 seconds of the game, going a combined 0-4 to let it end with a 32-29 Hazelwood Central victory.
Kuchem Paces Knights
Kuchem led the Knights in scoring with 11 points and added six rebounds, a blocked shot and a steal. He hit all three of Borgia’s three-point baskets, including two in a row during the first quarter as Borgia built up a 10-5 lead.
“It was great teamwork and great passing,” Neier said. “Casey can do that. We need him to start stepping up and hitting some of those shots.”
John Baumstark scored the first two baskets of the game, including one off a steal, and closed out with six points, seven rebounds and a steal.
“John’s never going to be afraid out there,” Neier said. “He did a great job on the boards for us, especially in the first half. He takes the ball to the basket hard and does a good job of passing the ball. I think he’s a great team player.”
Jordan Miller also ended with six points while adding three assists, three steals and two rebounds.
“Jordan’s been really tough lately,” Neier said. “He’s been shooting the ball very well. He was off a little bit tonight, but they really did a good job defending him. They put a lot of pressure on him and he handled the ball much of the game. He still did a great job of running the offense and helping us get the shots we wanted. The ball just wasn’t going into the basket for us.”
Joe Helfrich, playing against taller players in the paint, scored four points with four rebounds and an assist. One of his baskets came on an open shot away from the basket.
Zach Schweissguth recorded two points, five assists and four rebounds.
Others seeing action were Kevin Birk, Tyler Breckenkamp and Adam Meyer.
The Knights took care of the ball against a quick Hazelwood Central team and turned the ball over nine times.
Borgia went just 2-4 from the free-throw stripe. Hazelwood Central hit six of 10 attempts.
Gooch Leads Hawks
The Hawks were led in scoring by Quaron Gooch, who scored 13 points and hit three long three-point baskets. Gooch scored eight points near the end of the third quarter, including hitting two three-point baskets from well outside the arc, to help the Hawks take the lead for the first time since early in the game.
Bates hit a pair of three-point baskets and closed the contest with eight points.
Demarco Buchanan sank one three-point basket while concluding with six points.
Tippett ended the game with four points, all from the free-throw line.
Jordan Martin scored one point.
The Knights kept Hazelwood Central’s leading scorer, 6-6 forward Marcus Hinton, out of the scoring column. He picked up two early fouls and spent much of the game on the bench with foul trouble. He ended with four infractions.