It was worth the wait.
Pacific’s boys basketball Indians captured their first district title since 1982 Friday night in Union, defeating Borgia for the Class 4 District 6 crown, 50-43.
“It’s been a long, long time coming,” Pacific Head Coach John VanLeer said. “I just have to thank our administration, our community. To give a guy 24 years and be in the district title game some places you would be gone. I’ve never, ever heard that. They’ve let us keep on keeping on. The kids just battled. I can’t thank them enough.”
Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said Pacific deserved the title.
“Give credit to Pacific,” Neier said. “They gave themselves a chance. You’ve got to step up and do something at key moments and they did. We wish them the best of luck from here out. I think if they play up to their abilities, they have a chance against Parkway Central.”
It was the first district title for Pacific (22-5) since 1982 and first in 25 seasons for VanLeer.
“We’ve been playing together forever and we were going to stick together no matter what,” Pacific senior Cameron VanLeer said. “We just had confidence. We knew we were the better team going in and we wanted to get it done.”
Borgia ended its season at 13-14 overall.
“It was a game of streaks,” Neier said. “We played pretty close.”
John VanLeer said hustle and desire played a key in the game.
“I don’t know if they got a loose ball tonight,” John VanLeer said. “That’s one of our big things. We get all loose balls and if we can win the rebounding battle. Those are toughness things. That’s a tough bunch of young men who came out and battled.”
With nearly a capacity crowd at Union High School, Pacific held an 11-10 lead at the end of one quarter. It was scoreless for nearly four minutes before Borgia’s Hunter Mehler scored the first basket.
Borgia led 24-22 at the half, but Pacific jumped ahead to lead 37-28 after three quarters.
“In the third quarter, they took over,” Neier said. “We gave up 18 points and only scored four. We put ourselves behind the eight ball.”
Pacific senior Trey Boyer said it started with defense.
“We were guarding our yard,” Boyer said. “If we didn’t guard our yard, we weren’t going to be able to get the good shots we got.”
Borgia fought back in the fourth quarter and tied the game with 1:38 to play, 43-43.
Pacific scored the final seven points to win it.
“I didn’t think it was over until about 14 seconds was left and we were shooting free throws and got up by four or five,” John VanLeer said. I was pretty confident with this group of kids. These guys are warriors. They’re competitors. They believe in each other. They trust everybody and they play their roles to a high level. Joey Casey hits a big three in the corner. Everybody was rebounding. Jordan (Cowsert) got a couple of big rebounds on missed free throws. They all played a big part.”
Neier said Pacific came through in the clutch.
“In the fourth quarter, they made the big buckets,” Neier said.
Pacific looked to senior Cameron VanLeer and he came through in the clutch. VanLeer scored 27 points while knocking down three three-point baskets and going 6-8 from the free-throw line. He also snagged six rebounds, dished out three assists and added a steal.
“Cameron VanLeer showed why he is the best player in the area,” Neier said. “He took them on his back. Defensively, they’re always tough. They cracked down this game and did a good job on us.”
Boyer was next for Pacific, netting 10 points with six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“It was great energy out there and real fun to play in this game,” Boyer said.
From there, senior Tom Hennessy came off the bench to score six points for the Indians. He also had two assists and a steal.
Senior Ryan Sauvage netted four points with one steal.
Senior Joey Casey scored three points with two rebounds and two steals.
Junior Jordan Cowsert added a rebound. Junior Mason Fleming had a steal. Senior Matt Strong added three rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Pacific sealed the game at the free-throw line, knocking down 12 of 17 from the stripe. The Indians also had four three-point baskets.
Mehler, a senior, led Borgia in scoring with 13 points.
Senior Eli Marquart scored 12 points, all on three-point baskets. He hit four of Borgia’s seven from beyond the arc in the game.
Senior Jacob Unnerstall scored 10 points with two three-point baskets.
Other Borgia scorers were junior Alex Brinkmann with three points, junior Will Elbert with two and sophomore Trent Strubberg, senior Michael Baylard and junior Brendan Smith with one point each.
“We’re always trying to get them to play the best basketball they can play,” Neier said. “I think we could have played better.”
This marked the first year since 2008 that Borgia did not advance beyond the district level.