It might have been the best Christmas present the St. Francis Borgia Regional boys basketball Knights could have received.
Borgia (5-5, 1-2) rallied in the second half Friday night to defeat St. Dominic at home, 45-37.
It was the first win since Nov. 28 for the Knights and the first Archdiocesan Athletic Association Large Division victory as well.
“It was a win we really needed,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “I’m glad our kids went after it, played well and got a win going into the Christmas break.”
St. Dominic dropped to 4-4 overall, 0-2 in the AAA Large Division.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Neier said. “St. Dominic is a very well-coached and very talented team. It took a big effort on our part to come out with a victory. I think this was a game where we played well, but sometimes not as smart as we would have liked them to do. We made up for it at other times. We adjusted to their pressure in the second half and took a little better care of the ball.”
And it took a team effort. Different players stepped up at different times and everything seemed to come together in the second half when the team needed a lift.
Borgia players showed control and poise, moving the ball around in situations similar to where they had turned it over in the first half under pressure.
Borgia utilized its timeouts to save the ball and got a big defensive effort to seal the win.
“They’re exceptional in putting pressure on you,” Neier said about St. Dominic. “They put you in spots where they double-team you. It took our kids a little while to adjust. In the second half, we played much better. We played with more confidence and that really helped us out. Our kids did do well there.”
St. Dominic led 14-8 after one quarter and 19-17 at the half with a three by Anthony Lewis being the difference.
Borgia got baskets from Alex Brinkmann and Max Meyers off rebounds late in the third quarter to lead 31-28 headed to the fourth quarter.
That turned into a 10-point run as the Knights netted the first six points of the fourth quarter to build up a cushion. The Knights were able to seal it down the stretch.
“We were able to get pretty good shots and stretch into a lead a little bit,” Neier said. “It was close almost the whole way until we got to the fourth quarter. We were able to shut them out a couple of times where they tried to get the ball inside and shoot over the top of our big guys. They altered the shots and we did a pretty good job on the boards.”
Neier said the Knights also picked up the perimeter defense.
“We were really worried about a couple of guys shooting threes,” Neier said. “We were able to get out and get a hand in their face. They were able to hit some threes at different times, but we were able to get out and do a little better job. They’re a very talented team.”
Brinkmann was Borgia’s top scorer, netting the team’s first eight points on the way to closing with 13 for the contest.
“Early in the game, Alex kept us in it where he was catching the ball and taking it to the basket,” Neier said. “He did an outstanding job of being aggressive, getting shots and putting them in.”
Trent Strubberg returned to the lineup following a thumb injury suffered early in Tuesday’s loss to Sullivan to score 10 points.
Will Elbert netted eight points, continuing his return from an injury which kept him out of action early in the season.
Cole Weber was next with seven points.
Meyers scored four points in the second half.
Brendan Smith added three points while coming off the bench. He was a difference maker in the second half, blocking several shots.
Borgia again had to push the ball inside and work for shots after being limited to three three-point baskets for the game. Borgia went 8-14 from the free-throw line.
“After they stopped Brinkmann going to the basket, we got the ball inside a little bit and were able to score,” Neier said. “That caused some problems. We were able to hit some midrange shots and put pressure on them there. It wasn’t a high-scoring game, but it was a game where both teams were pretty patient in trying to get the shots they wanted. Their coach does an outstanding job with them. It was a good defensive effort by both teams that forced the other team to think about how they were going to attack them.”
Joshua Willenbrink led St. Dominic in scoring with 13 points. He was the only Crusader to score in each quarter.
Lewis knocked down four three-point shots for his 12 points. He hit three of them in the first two quarters, but then was held scoreless until the final quarter.
Brennan Kiger was next with five points.
Nathan Heiligenstein chipped in with three points while Jack Niggemeier and Matthew Hanson added two points apiece.
St. Dominic hit seven three-point shots and went 4-9 at the free-throw line.
Borgia is off until Jan. 4, when it hosts Tolton Catholic in another AAA Large contest. This is Tolton’s first year in the conference.
The Knights then will play in the Washington Tournament as the fifth seed. Borgia will open against No. 4 Francis Howell Central Monday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m.