ROLLA — Rallying from a nine-point second quarter deficit, the Borgia basketball Knights persevered to defeat Marshfield Wednesday in MSHSAA Class 4 sectional action, 64-59.
Borgia (19-8) will take on Republic (23-4) Saturday in Class 4 quarterfinal action at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. It’s a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal round, won by Republic, which went on to win the state championship.
In Wednesday’s game, Marshfield (16-13) went on an 11-point run to take a 29-20 advantage with 3:46 to play in the half. The teams had been tied after one quarter, 18-18, and Borgia netted the first basket of the quarter, but Marshfield exploded to take a big lead.
Borgia fought back and nibbled into the lead, cutting it to 31-28 at the intermission.
“That stretch at the end of the second quarter was huge,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “It went from a nine-point lead to a three-point lead at the half. That was so important to get us back into the ballgame. That gave us the opportunity that if we could get a few stops or steals, we could get back into the ballgame.”
Senior Zac Schweissguth was Borgia’s go-to player during the second quarter. He scored five of Borgia’s 10 points in the period and ended the game by leading all scorers with 25 points.
“Zac had a tremendous game,” Neier said. “He’s just making good decisions. He’s playing his best basketball of the season right now.”
Schweissguth said he tried to attack the basket.
“I just stayed aggressive,” Schweissguth said. “I just got the ball and I pushed it up and got layups.”
Schweissguth indicated the Knights stayed calm despite trailing at the half.
“We never doubted ourselves,” Schweissguth said. “We were down at the half in our district championship game. We knew if we kept playing hard and hit some shots, we could get the lead.”
Borgia made key adjustments at the break. Marshfield sophomore Wyatt Findley scored 15 points in the first half, but managed only three in the second to close with 18 for the game.
Borgia employed a stifling press to take the lead.
“That was a big thing,” Neier said. “We were able to get those easy buckets. We had to get some pressure on them in some way. They were hitting everything. We tried to change defenses and feel out ways to guard them. We rotated players based upon the defense we were going to run. I think our kids did a great job when they rotated in.”
After a basket from sophomore Luke DeLine, the Knights stole the ball twice on inbounds passes and Schweissguth finished.
“You knew the way they shot the ball in the first half that it was going to be tough to beat them,” Neier said. “We just thought we had to get some deflections, some steals and a few easy baskets. We were able to do that. Adam Meyer got a couple of deflections and we got three easy baskets in a row. That put a little bit of pressure on them and made it a little tougher.”
“Adam Meyer did a fantastic job up top,” Schweissguth said. “He had three steals at the beginning of the second half and got me layups. It was a great team effort.”
Sophomore Walton Eckelkamp, who scored 15 points for the game, was another Borgia standout in the third quarter. He scored seven points to place second by one point to Schweissguth in the period.
Eckelkamp gave Borgia an early lift, too, converting on a three-point play which started with an alley-oop dunk.
“This feels great,” Eckelkamp said. “I think it feels better than the district tournament. We did a good job passing and getting the ball to the open players.”
Meanwhile, Marshfield adapted its game and looked to feed the ball inside to junior Lukas Clift, who scored eight points in the third quarter and another 11 in the fourth. He led Marshfield in scoring for the game with 24 points.
“When they took the lead, we were trying to double on Clift and that left the shooters wide open,” Neier said. “In the second half, we tried to stay spread out more. Clift was a load. Inside, he was really tough to guard. He did a great job for them.”
DeLine said it was a war in the paint.
“They were pretty physical,” said DeLine. “Down low was tough. They were pushing us around.”
Borgia led 48-45 after three quarters and was hanging on by two points in the fourth quarter with 34.2 seconds to play, 59-57.
With an inbounds play from the sideline, Borgia found DeLine streaking to the bucket and he scored a huge layup to make it a four-point game, 61-57.
DeLine then scored again on the fast break, taking a pass from freshman Gus Kleekamp, who had grabbed a rebound, to score. He was fouled as well and hit the free throw to make it 64-57 with 13.7 seconds to play and seal the victory.
“This feels amazing,” DeLine said. “It felt great to get the win in front of this crowd. Gus got me the ball at the end and gave me two nice passes. From there, I just finished. Walt was breaking out, so I thought I would go to the basket since I didn’t see anyone there. He gave me a perfect pass.”
Neier credited Marshfield.
“Marshfield didn’t have any quit in them,” Neier said. “We were fortunate to hit some big shots near the end when it counted. When they tried to put pressure on us, our kids did a good job of looking down the court and got a couple of layups which sealed the game for us.”
DeLine scored eight of his 13 points in the final quarter.
Clift scored Marshfield’s final basket, but by that time, it was just a consolation play as the Knights booked their spot in the state quarterfinals.
Borgia again relied on a group effort and six different players got into the scoring column.
Besides the three in double digits, senior Joe Helfrich scored five points, senior Adam Meyer ended with four points and Kleekamp netted two points.
“Our bench came in and did a great job,” Neier said. “They gave the starters a little bit of rest so that we were playing hard at the end of the game.”
Clift led Marshfield with 24 and Findley added 18. Other Blue Jays in the scoring column were junior Bradey Welsh with nine points, junior Josh Powell with four and seniors Blayne Armstrong and Mathew Clancy with two points apiece.
Limiting Armstrong to two points was another huge achievement for the Knights. Armstrong had scored 34 in Marshfield’s district championship upset of top-seeded Hillcrest.
“Armstrong does it all for them,” Neier said. “He’s a good, solid all-around player.”
Following the lead of the girls, the Marshfield boys nailed seven three-point baskets. Borgia hit four.
Borgia did go 14-18 from two-point range and held the Blue Jays to just 20 shots during the second half.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Neier said. “We had so many kids and fans here supporting us.”