Despite trailing for most of the game, the Borgia basketball Knights found a way to get past Rockwood Summit Saturday to claim the Union Tournament championship.
The Knights (8-9) rallied past Rockwood Summit (5-10) to repeat as Union Tournament champion, 55-50.
“It took a heck of an effort because I thought Rockwood Summit played a tremendous game,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “They took it to us in the first half and did a lot of things exceptionally well. They were the aggressor in the first half. Finally, we got to the fourth quarter and I think we became the aggressor and got a couple of steals and baskets. We just had a good run there and I think that’s because our kids played hard and went out to win the ballgame. That’s what we try to preach all of the time. You’ve got to go out and try to win the ballgame.”
Tournament MVP Hunter Mehler said the Knights have picked up their play during the tournament.
“We started off slow on the season, but we’ve picked it up this tournament. We showed up,” Mehler said.
“It’s a great feeling,” Borgia senior Jacob Unnerstall said. “We struggled in the first half of the season, but I think we’re starting to get back into the groove and jell a little better as a team.”
Senior Eli Marquart also made the all-tournament team.
“They were very physical,” Marquart said. “I’m honored that Coach Neier has the trust in me to hit the big shots. Our point guards dealt with how physical they were very well.”
In the unexpected final, the sixth-seeded Falcons seemed to do everything correct in holding off Borgia. Rockwood Summit went on a run midway through the first quarter to lead 16-12 after eight minutes.
The Falcons stifled Borgia’s offense in the second quarter and led by as many as nine points before Borgia started to come back. And, during that run, the Falcons even got a Zane Sabbert basket which rolled off the top of the backboard.
“A lot of the times, it seems like there is a little luck involved,” Neier said. “You can overcome that by keep working hard and being aggressive.”
Frustration was the word of the quarter for the Knights, who got called for a charge and a technical foul while trying to fight back. It was 30-25 at the break thanks to a pair of late threes by Borgia.
“They were beating us on the boards, playing better defense and doing a lot of things better,” Neier said.
Mehler said Borgia concentrated on defense and that pulled the team through the frustrating stretches.
“We focused on defense the whole time,” Mehler said. “That’s what makes our offense go. All five guys played hard our there and that’s how we got the job done.”
In the third quarter, the Falcons were able to maintain the lead early, but Borgia came back late. Unnerstall completed a three-point play with 59.2 seconds to play, cutting it to 39-38. The Falcons got a Sabbert basket to lead 41-38 going to the fourth quarter.
With 6:12 to play, Ben Coughlin’s long three made it 48-40 for the Falcons. Borgia went on an 11-point run to tie it with Michael Baylard scoring the tying basket. Eli Marquart knocked down a three-point basket to give Borgia the lead with 3:40 to play, 51-48.
Rockwood Summit got a basket from Coughlin to pull back, 51-50, but that was the final scoring for Rockwood Summit. Brendan Smith made it a three-point game again.
In the final minute, the Falcons tried to find another three-point shot, but couldn’t do so with several chances. Borgia got a pair of Mehler free throws with 2.3 seconds to play to seal the win, 55-50.
“At the end of the game, the ball bounced our way a couple of times off the rim,” Neier said. “We got a couple of loose balls and we felt very fortunate to win the championship. We played a great opponent.”
Mehler led all scorers with 17 points. He hit three three-point baskets with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Marquart hit three three-point baskets for nine points. He also had three assists.
Jacob Unnerstall also scored nine points with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Mehler, Marquart and Unnerstall made the all-tournament team.
Michael Baylard scored eight points with three assists, a rebound and a steal.
Smith scored five points with seven rebounds, two assists, a blocked shot and a steal.
Trent Strubberg scored four points with four assists and two steals.
Max Meyers netted three points and added three assists, two rebounds and a steal.
Will Elbert pulled down four rebounds with two assists and two blocked shots.
Borgia knocked down nine three-point baskets and went 4-6 from the free-throw line.
“I think this gives us a chance to get a better seed than last year for the district tournament,” Mehler said. “We are aiming to win the district for another year. We’re still in the process. Wait until the district and we’ll show up.”
“This will motivate us a lot,” Marquart said. “Hopefully this will help us get a better seed in our quest to win another district championship. This also motivates us in practice to keep working hard because we’ve got a lot more games to go out and win.”
Coughlin led the Falcons with 16 points.
Sabbert was next with 12. Both Coughlin and Sabbert were named to the all-tournament team.
Connor Kramer scored seven points while Blake Vaughan ended with six. Nathan Humphery scored five points.
Tanner Jennings and Celestine Kubee each scored two points.
The Falcons knocked down four three-point shots and went 8-12 from the free-throw line.
“I think Rockwood Summit has a good team and they’re coached tremendously,” Neier said. “Casey Korn, who we know when he coached St. Clair, does a tremendous job with his kids. They came ready to play. It was a great championship game. It took a heck of an effort on our part to get back into the game at the end.”