There’s a new highlight for the storied St. Francis Borgia Regional basketball tradition.
Trent Strubberg’s shot from just beyond half-court range Friday in overtime lifted the Knights over Normandy in the semifinals of the 66th Annual St. Francis Borgia Pepsi Thanksgiving Tournament, 60-57.
“The half-court shot, I just threw up a prayer to win it and it was answered,” Strubberg said.
Strubberg intercepted a long inbounds pass past the middle of the court and was able to get his shot off before the buzzer. It swished through the basket and Borgia’s fans rushed the court to congratulate him and the rest of the team on the win.
“Apparently, it’s going down in Borgia history,” Strubberg said.
And that wasn’t Strubberg’s only clutch shot. He knocked down a much less dramatic three-point basket to tie it just before the final inbounds play.
“I just tried to find open teammates,” Strubberg said. “They weren’t open, so I decided to take it for myself. It worked out.”
Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said it was everything that was expected in a tournament semifinal.
“What an exciting game,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “Actually, there were two exciting games in a row with Pacific and Ft. Zumwalt North going to double overtime. I don’t know if you could have had two more closely contested games than those two. Those might be the best games ever in the Thanksgiving Tournament.”
Anyone who only saw the early part of the game would have been surprised that Normandy came back. Borgia led 20-11 after one quarter, but the Vikings slowed down Borgia’s offense in the second quarter, cutting the gap to 30-27 at the break.
After three quarters, Borgia’s lead was just 41-39 and the Vikings took the lead late in the fourth quarter.
“We played a very talented, very quick, good-shooting Normandy team which was really hot that night shooting,” Neier said. “I thought we played pretty well defensively, but they shot the ball extremely well. We got out to a pretty good lead on them, but they fought back and tied it at the end.”
After the game was tied 51-51 going to overtime, the teams again traded the lead. Borgia tied the game and Normandy inbounded the ball with a long pass, looking for the win rather than just another overtime.
Strubberg picked off the pass and was able to dribble toward the midcourt stripe before unleashing the winning shot.
“We were fortunate to take the game to overtime and then get a couple of key baskets by Trent Strubberg,” Neier said. “The second one was from way out there across the half-court line to give us the win.”
Neier said Strubberg was able to get his normal shot from that distance.
“Even the long one looked like his natural shot,” Neier said. “He didn’t just heave it up there. That was pretty impressive.”
Everyone watched as the ball flew toward the hoop.
“The buzzer went off while the ball was in the air,” Neier said. “To see it go through the hoop, you could see the reaction of our players and fans as they stormed the court. Normally, that’s not something I like to see, but I think in this instance, it was so spontaneous and there was such jubilation with the shot going in that it seemed like one of those miracle shots. I tried to get my kids out of it as fast as I could so they could shake hands with the other team. That’s always important. They deserved our respect because they played a tremendous ballgame. It’s a great team win for us.”
As far as Borgia history goes, this one will go down with the shot Josh Hotz hit in the 1995 Class 3A quarterfinals to beat Charleston at Jefferson College. Hotz scored from between halfcourt and the three-point arc to beat the Blue Jays to send Borgia to the state tournament for the third year in a row.
The buzzer-beaters were just two of the six three-point baskets Strubberg hit on the night. He was 6-9 from beyond the arc on the way to scoring a team-high 20 points. Strubberg also had three assists, three steals and two rebounds.
Cole Weber knocked down a trio of three-point baskets and ended with 14 points, six rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Brendan Smith was the other Borgia player to reach double digits for the night and he netted 11 points to go with eight rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals.
Smith had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but missed both attempts after Normandy burned two timeouts, one before each free throw.
Alex Brinkmann scored eight points with eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot. He was perfect at the free-throw line, going 4-4 from the stripe.
Max Meyers scored four points with an assist and a steal.
Aiden Brundick ended with three points, two rebounds and an assist.
Ryan Kell added two assists and a rebound.
Borgia knocked down 10 three-point baskets and went 14-20 from the free-throw line.
Normandy hit eight three-point baskets while going 3-5 from the free-throw stripe.
The Vikings had 11 different players score in the game with Jamod Robinson leading the way with 11 points.
Terron Robinson was next with eight points.
Brandon Branscomb and Dominic Wilbourn each scored six points.
Layton Martin and Omarion Henry scored five points apiece.
Jeffrey Bradbury and Jerome Chapman scored four points apiece.
Dershun Hunt scored two points and Joseph Washington added one.
“They not only were so quick, but they shot the ball so well against us and they were disciplined,” Neier said. “It seemed like they always got a good shot. They rebounded so hard. They didn’t have a lot of tall guys, but they hit the boards very hard.”
Editor’s note — Missourian Sports Writer Arron Hustead provided some information for this story.