Racing out to a 20-0 lead, the Borgia basketball Knights cruised to a 76-18 win over the St. Louis Blue Knights homeschool team Wednesday in the opening round of the 65th Annual St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament.
“That really helped,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said about the fast start. “I think the environment of the gym really helped us out. We had a huge crowd with kids and parents and there was a lot of noise. Our fans were really excited with the start of the new season. I think that gave us a lot of encouragement. Another school might not be used to that kind of environment and that might play into it, too. Our kids came out and played really hard at the start of the game and the big thing was that we shot the ball really well at the beginning and got a lead. That got our kids very comfortable and that made a difference.”
Second-seeded Borgia (1-0) takes on No. 3 McCluer North, an 86-47 winner over Washington in Wednesday’s other first-round game, Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“It should be another great atmosphere here Friday night,” Neier said. “We know it’s going to be tough and we’re going to have to be ready to play.”
The Blue Knights face Washington at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the consolation semifinals.
“It’s such a special tournament to me,” Neier said. “I had an opportunity to play under Ray DeGreeff, who started the tournament and he worked so hard to make this tournament successful and build it into what it is today. I know many times he had to fight just to keep the tournament as they changed the time lines of when you could start the season. He did so much work through the years that it’s special in my heart to get out here and play in it at the beginning of the year. Everybody is excited about the season and it’s always fun.”
Borgia never gave the homeschool squad a chance to get comfortable. The host squad netted the first 20 points, negating the Blue Knights’ attempts to stop the run through timeouts. The Blue Knights finally got onto the scoreboard with 52.2 seconds left in the opening quarter, but the damage had been done.
“It really helped the confidence,” Neier said. “We found out some things at the jamboree and we even switched our lineup and rotated a little bit differently. Different guys have stepped up at different times in practice. Hopefully, we get everybody playing at their best and we can keep rotating a lot of kids into the game and keep everyone fresh. That’s always a key.”
Borgia continued to maintain the lead. It was 40-13 at the half and 64-15 after three quarters.
The host squad knocked down 19 two-point baskets, 10 three-point shots and was 8-13 from the free-throw line.
Four Borgia players reached double digits in scoring for the game. Senior Eli Marquart led the charge with 15 points, including three three-point baskets in the opening quarter. He knocked down four threes for the game.
Senior Jacob Unnerstall, making his return after missing last season due to an injury, scored 13 points, including eight in the first quarter. He knocked down one three-point basket and went 2-3 from the free-throw line.
Seniors Michael Baylard and Dalton Shust each scored 12 points.
Baylard had two three-point baskets while Shust hit one three. Shust also was 1-2 from the free-throw line.
Sophomore Trent Strubberg, making his varsity debut, almost joined the other four. He ended with nine points, including a three-point basket and going 2-2 from the free-throw line.
Brendan Smith, a junior, was next with six points. Junior Will Elbert netted four points while junior Andrew Jensen added three and sophomore Alex Brinkmann scored two points. Junior Spencer Hunter, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, also played.
“It’s just the start of the season and we’ve got to keep getting better,” Neier said.
Senior Jeremiah Reed led the Blue Knights in scoring with five points, including all four the team scored in the opening quarter.
Freshman Jack Schark, senior Eli Siecinski and sophomore Patrick Baalman each scored three points.
Sophomores Lucas Kimball and Will Hoenig each scored two points.
The Blue Knights hit five two-point baskets, one three-point shot and were 3-7 from the free-throw line.
The tournament concludes Saturday with four games. The seventh-place game starts at 3 p.m. with the consolation game at 4:30 p.m. The third-place game will start at 6 p.m. with the championship game at 7:30 p.m.