Bouncing back from a semifinal defeat the night before, the Borgia basketball Knights captured third place in the 65th Annual St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament Saturday with a 71-41 win over St. Louis Christian Blue.
“I think we really played well as a team,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “Different guys did different things to really help us out. I think we had guys come off the bench and do an outstanding job.”
Borgia (2-1) equaled last year’s finish with the victory. The Knights beat a different St. Louis Christian team last year to also finish third.
“The big thing is that we played some great competition,” Neier said. “We’ve got to keep working to get better. To come out with two wins against this competition has got to make you pretty happy. We have got to keep getting better. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to play in a district championship game.”
St. Louis Christian’s second team (its No. 1 squad was playing in the Washington, Ill., Tournament of Champions) opened the game with a three-point basket, but Borgia came back to take the lead for good.
The Knights went on a 14-point run and never looked back after that. Freshman Sekou Gassama put down a dunk for the Cougars, but that was one of the few highlights for the visitors while Borgia surged out to a 19-10 lead after one quarter.
Neier was able to rotate in many players during the second quarter, including sophomore Trent Strubberg, who spun in a shot at the buzzer to make it 39-23 at the break.
“Trent Strubberg did a great job off the bench and showed his quickness,” Neier said. “He was able to get fouled by faking and penetrating. He’s an exceptional free-throw shooter and he showed that tonight.”
The third quarter began as senior Eli Marquart, who led Borgia in scoring for the game at 22 points, knocked down one of his three three-point baskets.
“Eli is a very good offensive weapon,” Neier said. “Tonight, he not only shot well from behind the three-point line. He also got to the bucket a few times and got some layups. He got one on the steal. He does a good job of getting deflections and getting to the bucket.”
St. Louis Christian junior Memet Ulus answered, but Borgia netted the next 11 points and led 54-29 through three quarters.
The Knights continued to extend the lead in the fourth quarter and activated the running clock late in the game to bring the proceedings to a close with a 71-41 victory.
Marquart scored 22 points with seven rebounds and two steals. He had three three-point baskets.
Junior forward Brendan Smith scored 13 points with three rebounds and three assists.
Senior Dalton Shust scored 10 points with six rebounds and three steals.
“Dalton Shust did an outstanding job rotating with the inside players,” Neier said. “He was tough on the boards and he made some aggressive moves to the basket.”
Sophomore Trent Strubberg scored eight points with one rebound and one assist.
Junior Will Elbert scored six points with six rebounds and two blocked shots.
“Will Elbert and Brendan Smith give us a pretty tough inside game,” Neier said. “We had a pretty good percentage in the second half when we got the ball inside.”
Senior Jacob Unnerstall scored five points with three assists and three steals.
“Jacob Unnerstall is just like a warrior out there,” Neier said. “He plays hard all of the time. As the season progresses, he’s going to just keep getting better. He does a lot of good things for us also.”
Sophomore Alex Brinkmann scored four points with three rebounds and one steal.
Senior Michael Baylard posted three points with one rebound.
Borgia hit four three-point baskets and went 17-22 from the free-throw line.
Senior Borris Brozovic led St. Louis Christian with 13 points, including nine in the second quarter.
Gassama and Alpha Chimbambe each scored seven points.
Senior Raheem Nixon and Ulus scored five points apiece. Rafael Ziboedovs, a sophomore, added three points and senior Garren Evans scored one point.
For the tournament, Borgia allowed an average of 40.5 points per game, best among this year’s tournament teams.
“We’ve got to keep concentrating on that,” Neier said. “We’ve got to use our length. We have some tall guys with long arms. We’ve got to take the passing lanes out and get a hand up in the face. The biggest part is just keeping the focus on where we need to be and what angles we need to have.”
The Knights play a varsity-only game at Eureka Wednesday night at 6 p.m. before returning home to host MICDS Friday at 7:15 p.m.