She was the smallest player on the court.
But Borgia senior Emily Grahl made the biggest impact Thursday night as the host Lady Knights defeated St. Clair, 63-42.
Grahl led Borgia (6-1) with 24 points and added six steals, four assists and three rebounds.
“They didn’t have an answer for Emily Grahl,” Borgia Head Coach Stacia Parsell said. “Emily was the best player on the court tonight at times.”
At times, St. Clair couldn’t handle Grahl’s quickness or speed. She frequently turned steals into baskets. When she spotted teammates in better position, she didn’t hesitate to get the ball to them for scoring chances.
“Emily stepped up and filled her (Janie Arand’s) role scoring wise,” St. Clair Head Coach Jena Carroll said. “It was a risk we took.”
Parsell complimented the Lady Bulldogs as well.
“Both teams played really hard tonight,” Parsell said. “The effort on both sides was good. St. Clair came in and played hard and aggressively. I thought we held our composure and did what we needed to do to win the game.”
Carroll credited her team for continuing to push, no matter how big the Borgia lead became.
“No matter what the score is, we don’t lose the fight,” Carroll said. “We always tend to play the same way, really aggressive. I can’t fault my kids tonight. The effort was there.”
Parsell said it was a quality win to beat a team from the Four Rivers Conference, who also is a district rival.
“This was a really good win for us against a Four Rivers Conference team,” Parsell said. “We know those are always tough games.”
St. Clair (4-6) concentrated its defensive efforts on slowing down Borgia senior Janie Arand and the Lady Bulldogs were able to do that for much of the night. Arand still managed 13 points (7-8 from the free-throw line) to go with five rebounds, three steals and one assist.
“We knew they were going to try to take Janie out of the game, and they did a good job of that,” Parsell said. “She did a great job on the defensive boards. She posted up when we asked her to do that. She did all of the right things.”
Carroll said St. Clair knows about Arand’s abilities.
“We have a lot of respect for her as a player,” Carroll said. “Obviously, it was a key to take her offensively out of the game and make her work extra hard. She’s just as good defensively. We were hoping to wear her out.”
Also hitting double digits for Borgia was sophomore Megan Jensen, who recorded a double-double with 13 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and two steals.
“Megan Jensen had a really great game,” Parsell said. “She is just a workhorse for us.”
Also scoring for Borgia were junior Molly Arand (five points and two rebounds), junior Cassandra Halsted (four points, three rebounds and two steals) and sophomore Kaylee Heggemann (four points, three rebounds and one steal).
St. Clair was paced by senior Alicia York, who scored 12 points.
From there, the Lady Bulldogs had balanced scoring with seven others getting into the book.
Senior Sam Deason and sophomore Katelyn Guehne each scored seven points.
Junior Emily Presley, who defended Janie Arand for much of the game, scored five points.
Junior Allison Hinson and freshman Kelsey Wachter each netted four points.
Senior Karissa Hoffman scored three points and junior Halley Cokley ended with two points.
St. Clair scored first in the game with Hinson hitting a basket and both teams came out shooting hot.
The Lady Bulldogs struggled at times with Borgia’s pressure and Grahl forced a number of turnovers at different times. The first stretch came in the opening quarter. Despite that, St. Clair fought back and Borgia’s lead was one point through eight minutes, 13-12.
Up 15-14, the Lady Knights went on an 11-2 run through the middle part of the second quarter. That included two baskets and chances for free throws as well as more baskets off steals.
“We had a good game plan tonight,” Carroll said. “The kids stuck with it really well. The second quarter got out of hand. We got into some foul trouble. They got to the line really well. They rarely miss free throws, so they were able to build a lead on our silly fouls. They stood up and hit some big free throws to build that lead at the half.”
Borgia went 20-25 from the free-throw line for the game. St. Clair hit seven of 11 attempts.
After one final Grahl basket off a steal, the Lady Knights took a 34-23 advantage to the locker room at the intermission.
Borgia’s 11-point edge proved to be what it needed to hold the Lady Bulldogs at bay in the third quarter. Guehne’s basket at the buzzer cut Borgia’s advantage to 45-31 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, St. Clair started to turn to its outside shooters a little more often and Cokley and York both came through with threes.
However, Borgia went on a 12-1 run down the stretch to seal the game. Presley scored the game’s final basket, but the verdict had been concluded well before that.
“We have a conference game at Rosati-Kain Friday and these games will do a good job to prepare us for the Union Tournament next week,” Parsell said.
“We’ve been off for about a week, so it was nice to get another game in,” Carroll said.