Top-seeded Sullivan reached the championship of its own Peoples Bank Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament, but it was a struggle.
For over three quarters, the Lady Eagles (7-0) grappled with fourth-seeded Borgia (4-3) to determine the outcome, a 49-40 Sullivan victory.
“Reaching the finals of our own tournament was a goal,” Sullivan Head Coach Jason Merkel said. “We beat a very good Borgia team tonight. We’re proud of that and hopefully we’ll win this tournament.”
Borgia Head Coach Stacia Parsell said Sullivan has an outstanding team.”
“Sullivan is a really good strong team,” Parsell said. “Coming in here, we knew that was what we were going to have to face. They’re as good as advertised.”
Sullivan plays second-seeded Farmington Friday at 8:30 p.m. for the championship while the Lady Knights take on sixth-seeded Owensville in the third-place game at 7 p.m.
Farmington has struggled in the tournament so far, edging Waynesville in the opening round, 53-51, and needing overtime to get past Owensville in the semifinals, 60-57.
“It will be a good one,” Merkel said. “We’re expecting to have a pretty good crowd. We’re pretty excited about playing for the championship of our own tournament against a pretty good Farmington team which has a lot more size than us. It will be another good test.”
The Dutchgirls have impressed so far in the tournament and Parsell knows Borgia has a challenge on its hands in the third-place game.
“We’ve got another tough match on Friday with Owensville,” Parsell said. “They’re really playing hard and they’re playing together. It’s going to be tough to get out of here on Friday with a win.”
Borgia rallied from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 39-39 with 5:09 to play. But Sullivan hit shots after that while Borgia went cold.
The Lady Knights expended a lot of energy in pulling back. After Tessa Johanning hit a three-point basket to start the final quarter, Borgia got a three-point play from Emily Grahl, a basket by Janie Arand off a rebound and a pair of free throws by Katie Lindemann to knot the game.
And the Lady Knights had chances to go up. Grahl stole the ball with just over five minutes left, but was called for a charge while going to the basket.
Soon after, Sierra Pryor gave Sullivan the lead for good with a basket with 4:32 remaining.
Borgia had opportunities to tie the game, but couldn’t get the ball into the basket.
“Having multiple trips down the floor and getting two or three turnovers in a row is giving Sullivan way too many opportunities to score on the other side,” Parsell said.
The Lady Eagles secured the game by going 6-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
“I was very proud of the defensive effort in the second half,” Merkel said. “We did a lot better job defending the dribble drive in the second half. They’ve got a lot more speed than we do, so we did a better job defending the dribble drive and the flex cuts. I was proud about how our girls finished the game.”
Pryor led all scorers with 18 points.
Also hitting double digits for Sullivan were Aley Lucas and Demi Reed. Lucas netted 14 points while Reed ended with 10.
Megan Brandt and Johanning added three points apiece while Jessica Heinle scored one point.
Also playing for Sullivan were Kaitlynn Hill and Aubrey Daniel.
“The bench did a good job tonight,” Merkel said. “I was very proud with how Tessa and Kaitlynn came off the bench and performed. They played well and were able to contribute.”
Sullivan played without Taylor Lucas, who suffered a concussion in the win over University City Monday.
Borgia also had three players reach double digits.
Lindemann led the way with 14 points while adding eight rebounds and two steals.
Janie Arand scored 13 points with six rebounds, four steals and two assists.
Grahl scored 10 points with five assists, five steals and a rebound.
Cassandra Halsted scored three points with two rebounds and a steal.
Molly Arand contributed six assists and two rebounds. Morgan Spradling had four rebounds. Also playing were Baylee Godat and Madison Wehking.
Parsell tweaked her starting lineup, giving sophomores Molly Arand and Halsted positions in the starting lineup after both had impressed off the bench in recent contests.
“We’re getting contributions from more areas,” Parsell said. “Katie Lindemann is working hard on the boards and keeping us in games we probably shouldn’t be in.”
Borgia’s lineup was able to thwart Sullivan throughout the first half. The Lady Knights led 13-10 after one quarter and 24-20 at the half.
Sullivan regrouped at halftime, and grabbed a 36-32 lead after three quarters.
“We just drew everything up again at halftime and told them to play with composure,” Merkel said. “I think we lost our composure in the first half. It was a big game and a big environment. Borgia-Sullivan always is going to be a big game. We’ve got a team that has never beaten them before. It was big on their confidence. I think more than anything, it was about mental toughness and tonight we showed some of that.”
Parsell said the game was a huge challenge.
“This is one of the bigger tests that we’ve had,” Parsell said. “It’s still early in the season and we’re trying to figure some things out.”