The second-seeded Knights came back in the final 4:21 to defeat third-seeded Union in the Class 4 District 6 Boys Basketball Tournament semifinals in Union Tuesday, 51-41.
Borgia (13-13) captured the season series against the Wildcats (12-15), two games to one, with the victory.
“It was a hard-fought win, without a doubt,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “You’ve got to give Union a lot of credit. They played hard the entire game. We were hoping to wear them down a little bit. We thought we had a little more depth, but they came after it the whole game. We were very fortunate at the end.”
Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said his team gave its all.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” Simmons said. “They killed us on the glass, but they earned every one of the points. I thought our kids fought their hearts out. They’re a lot bigger than we are and the lack of size really hurt us. It hurts, but I can live with going out that way.”
With the win, Borgia moved to Friday’s championship game against Pacific at 7 p.m.
“This game should get us ready for the next one,” Neier said. “We know that is going to be tough for us.”
Union didn’t go down without a fight. The Wildcats were able to hang close with the Knights through the first three quarters, taking the lead at different times in the second, third and fourth quarters. Borgia led 11-8 after one quarter, but the game was tied at 18-18 at the end of the half. Borgia was up 34-28 to start the fourth quarter.
Union went ahead for the final time as junior Trevor Kelly capped a six-point run with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter to give Union its final lead, 35-34.
“I thought both teams played hard,” Simmons said. “They rebounded hard. You can’t fault kids when they leave it all on the floor and I thought both teams did that.”
Borgia came back to get a three-point basket from senior Dalton Shust with 4:21 to play. That gave Borgia a 37-35 lead and the Knights never looked back.
“Dalton Shust hit a big three for us in the fourth quarter,” Neier said. “That was crucial for us to win the game.”
After both teams missed multiple chances, Borgia was able to strike next and add to its lead. Senior Hunter Mehler scored and senior Jacob Unnerstall made it an eight-point run with a three-point basket. That gave Borgia a 42-35 lead with 2:40 to play.
“I thought Borgia made plays,” Simmons said. “They made some shots and that’s really what it came down to.”
Down the stretch, Borgia was able to hang on to a multiple-possession lead. The Knights capped the win as junior Brendan Smith threw down a slam dunk near the end to make it 51-41.
“The ball wasn’t going into the hoop for us and Union kept right in the game,” Neier said. “It was a defensive battle and I think both sides played hard the entire time.”
Smith led the Knights in scoring with 13 points, including six in the final quarter.
Mehler, playing significant minutes for the first time in three games, came back from illness to score 11 points.
Unnerstall was next with six points.
Sophomore Trent Strubberg came off the bench to contribute six points.
Senior Michael Baylard had five points, all in the third quarter.
Freshman Max Meyers and Shust each hit one three-point basket for their scoring.
Will Elbert added two points.
“We had a couple of big things happen at the end,” Neier said. “First, Trent Strubberg did a great job of putting pressure on their ballhandlers and making it a little tougher for them. We got a couple of steals, even a couple on the press and got some easy shots. Then, we hit a couple of threes. We hadn’t been shooting the ball well outside all night. Mike Baylard and Jake Unnerstall hit threes and gave us a little bit of a cushion. After that, I think they had to hurry up a little bit and they weren’t quite as comfortable in their offense and that made a difference, also.”
For Union, Kelly was the leading scorer with 19 points. He also had seven rebounds while trying to fill multiple roles.
Sophomore Peyton Burke closed with seven points and three rebounds.
Sophomore Caleb Mabe scored five points and added six rebounds.
Junior Jacob Towell netted five points with four rebounds and four assists.
Senior Blake Dickinson and junior Kale Crawford each scored two points. Crawford also had two rebounds.
“Their length bothered us in terms of shots,” Simmons said. “When they close out, it seems like they’re a little closer because of their length. That bothered us. We didn’t shoot the ball as well, but I thought our defense was pretty good and caused them to miss some shots, too.”
Dickinson and Derek Foster were Union’s two seniors this season. Foster played in the fourth quarter and attempted Union’s final shot of the game.