St. Clair didn’t lead for long, but it was only the final 9.1 seconds that counted.
Junior Haley Buscher’s basket was the difference as the Lady Bulldogs (20-6) rallied past Borgia (15-12) in the Class 4 District 6 semifinals at Union High School Monday, 50-48.
“It was fantastic,” St. Clair Head Coach Mike Scheer said. “Those girls did not quit at all. We talked about that at halftime. In a lot of games, we’ve had some really good third quarters. The way Borgia shoots the ball, our pressure made some difference.”
Borgia Head Coach Stacia Houlihan said her team stood out during the first 16 minutes.
“We played a good first half,” she said. “We executed the way we wanted to and kept them off the boards. We were able to get shots and get everyone into the flow. In the second half, we just went cold. Everybody contributed to this in both ways.”
Second-seeded St. Clair moved to Friday’s championship game with the win. The Lady Bulldogs and Sullivan (22-4) shared the Four Rivers Conference championship this season, but Sullivan won the head-to-head game. St. Clair is looking forward to another chance against the Lady Eagles.
“They have such a good system and they have some tremendous players,” Scheer said. “We’ve got to be focused and ready to go. We’ve got our work cut out, but we’re ready to go. This is something we’ve wanted since the beginning of the year. We’ve got to go take care of business.”
Borgia ended its season with the loss, the second of the season to St. Clair. Borgia graduates one player, 1,000-point scorer Cassidy Moss, from this year’s team.
“She’s done so much for us,” Houlihan said. “These kids really look up to her for everything she’s done.”
Borgia led for most of the game, starting with a Moss three-point basket which gave Borgia the advantage nearly two minutes into the game. The Lady Knights led 16-8 after eight minutes of play.
The first quarter showed how physical the game was going to be. The teams combined for five fouls in the first 1:42 and both teams were in the bonus by the end of the quarter.
Borgia continued to add to its lead and was up 26-14 at the half.
In the third quarter, Scheer made adjustments. The Lady Bulldogs started hitting outside shots. And Alohilani Bursey, a freshman who spent most of the season on the junior varsity team, provided a spark off the bench.
Bursey was St. Clair’s scoring leader in the game with 10 points and she played a big role in helping the Lady Bulldogs eliminate a 12-point deficit to take a lead with 1:01 left in the quarter, 35-34.
“Bursey had scored something like 10 points all year on the varsity,” Scheer said. “She figured out tonight that she could score at the varsity level. She was getting to the rim right and left. I’m really proud of her.”
Borgia replied. Sophomore Julia Struckhoff scored and was fouled with 24 seconds to play. She completed the three-point basket and Borgia added two more Moss free throws to make it 39-35 through three quarters.
“That’s something we have not been able to do throughout the season,” Houlihan said. “I think it was something new to us. We had struggled when we went down, but we worked to get that lead back. I felt pretty good about it, but they executed on their offensive end and we couldn’t get a stop. It just piled up. They made their free throws. They shot very well from the free-throw line.”
Borgia went up by seven early in the fourth quarter, 42-35, before St. Clair made another charge back. This time, junior Erin York knocked down a three with 3:45 to go to tie it at 44-44.
Borgia went back to Struckhoff, who gave the Lady Knights the lead again and Moss made it a four-point edge with 2:08. Those ended up being Borgia’s final points.
St. Clair chipped back again. Free throws by Bursey and senior Megan Hinson tied the game with 1:26 to go.
Borgia went down and attempted an outside shot, but St. Clair got the rebound and worked it in to Buscher for the go-ahead basket with 9.1 seconds to play.
“Haley struggled in the first half, but she got hot and got some big baskets for us,” Scheer said. “She did a fantastic job. With the way we play, it’s going to be somebody different every night. I think we had nine or 10 girls score and that’s huge for us.”
Borgia worked for another shot, but a jump ball just before the horn forced any celebration to wait.
“I knew there was some time left when he blew the whistle,” Scheer said. “It wasn’t too hard. I just had to get them to focus on what they had to do.”
Borgia got the ball with 0.4 of a second to play under the basket, but couldn’t get a shot to fall as the Lady Bulldogs and their fans celebrated.
The Lady Knights looked to Moss.
“She’s wanted the ball in her hands in the biggest moments since she came into this program,” Houlihan said. “We’re going to give her that chance. It just didn’t happen tonight, but what she’s meant to our program has been a lot.”
Scheer said Borgia did what it needed to do with that fraction of a second to play.
“Borgia got a good look,” Scheer said. “That would have been a heartbreaker right there.”
St. Clair hit three three-point baskets in the game, but they all seemed to come at key moments. The Lady Bulldogs also went 13-19 from the free-throw line.
Nine different players scored for St. Clair with only Bursey reaching double digits. Scheer had to go into his bench early and those who came into the game were able to contribute in a positive way.
York was next on the scoring list with eight points.
Buscher and senior Kenzie Schmidtke each scored seven points. Schmidtke injected some extra grit into the lineup especially in the second half.
Megan Hinson ended with six points.
Junior Hannah Machelett was next with four points. Sophomores Alana Hinson and Gracie Sohn each had three points. Senior Graci Shirey closed with two points.
“Kenzie Schmidtke, Megan Hinson and Graci Shirey are our three seniors,” Scheer said. “Schmidtke was just all over the place. Hinson took over the point guard when Hannah Machelett needed a break.”
Macalyn LaCrone didn’t score, but she contributed in other important ways.
“She picked up two charges and that was huge,” Scheer said.
Moss was Borgia’s leading scorer with 17 points. She was perfect at the free-throw line, going 6-6. She also hit one three-point basket.
Junior Grace Gettemeier was next with 13 points, including two three-point baskets. She was 3-3 from the free-throw line.
Struckhoff closed with six points.
Freshman Avery Lackey scored five points. Junior Lynnae Grus ended with four points while junior Anya Castelli ended with three points.