Jumping out to a fast start, the Borgia basketball Knights gave their head coach, Dave Neier, his 700th career victory Friday during the Union Tournament semifinals.
The fifth-seeded Knights upset top-seeded Kirkwood, 61-45.
Neier felt reaching the tournament championship was the most important aspect of the win.
“You want your best for your kids every year,” Neier said. “When you have some success, obviously it’s a lot more fun for them. This was a big game for us to win to get to a championship game. We know we’re going to have plenty to do to prepare for it. Just being in a championship game, I think we learn a lot. We want to get ready for the end of the year and getting this opportunity, hopefully we’ll make the most of it and give ourselves a chance tomorrow.”
Neier said the personal milestone belongs to the program.
“You don’t think about it so much because the game itself and the kids are the most important things, not the number of victories,” Neier said. “It does say something about your program and its tradition. We’ve had some tremendous assistant coaches throughout the years. I give a lot of credit to Coach (Bill) Kimminau. He’s been with us for 30 years and has been through many of those victories. I’ve always said he deserves at least half of those victories with the amount of time and effort he’s put into our program. Even now, with Adam Fischer, Bryce Dolan and Patrick Kimminau helping out along with Stan Westhoff with the freshmen and the other assistant coaches throughout the years, they’ve done such a great job. If you look at our school, our tradition and all facets of our school, it’s all important to have a successful program. We have a very supportive administration. We’re just happy things worked out this way and we hope it can continue.”
Borgia (7-9) led for much of the game after grabbing the lead on an Eli Marquart three-point basket, 3-2. Borgia never looked back.
After scoring the opening basket, the Pioneers were held to just one point for the rest of the quarter as Borgia led 12-3 through eight minutes.
The Pioneers inched a little closer in the second quarter and Borgia led 27-19 at the intermission.
The lead stayed the same through three quarters as both teams scored 12 points. It was 39-31 for the Knights going to the last eight minutes.
“I was happy with the way our kids played,” Neier said. “We made mistakes, but you have to give credit to Kirkwood, too. They’re an awfully good team. They have some shooters and great athletes on their team. Our kids hustled and stayed focused the entire game. I think even with mistakes, we didn’t let that build into where they got momentum for a long time and took the lead. We kept fighting back and stayed aggressive. We kept going at the basket, got good shots and put them in. We got back and played hard on defense. That’s the kind of ball we like to play. The kids got after it and had fun.”
Hunter Mehler led the Knights in scoring with 19 points. He also pulled down seven rebounds and added three steals and two assists.
Jacob Unnerstall posted a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He also had four assists and two steals.
Eli Marquart hit a trio of three-point shots, half of Borgia’s threes on the night, and ended with 11 points. He also had three steals, two assists and two rebounds.
Will Elbert and Max Meyers scored six points apiece. Elbert had nine rebounds, three blocked shots and an assist. Meyers added six assists and a steal.
Dalton Shust and Brendan Smith each chipped in with two points. Shust also had four rebounds, an assist and a steal. Smith added two rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Michael Baylard contributed four assists and two steals.
“You can go through each player and the role they played in helping us win this game,” Neier said. “That’s what makes it fun, especially when you get a lot of kids involved in it. We had a lot of kids who played hard, did their part and gave us a chance to win this ballgame.”
Borgia went 5-12 from the free-throw line in addition to hitting six three-point baskets.
Jonah McDowell led Kirkwood with 13 points and he added three assists, three steals, three rebounds and two blocked shots.
Jay Maclin scored 11 points with four rebounds, one assist and a steal.
Jack Kanzler added eight points and one rebound.
Jaylen Phipps scored seven points with seven rebounds and two assists.
Leondre Clay, Arvell Ferguson and Brad Lay scored two points apiece for Kirkwood.
Clay also had four rebounds and a steal. Ferguson added four rebounds, a blocked shot and an assist. Lay also had two rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Alex Zirges added an assist and a rebound.