Desperate times call for desperate measures.
And one of those measures paid off Tuesday for the Borgia basketball Knights.
Using a lineup of four point guards and a center, the Knights turned a 7-0 deficit into a 57-50 victory in Sullivan.
“We had planned on rotating guys in early and trying to change up some defenses on them because they are a pretty good offensive team,” Borgia Head Coach Dave Neier said. “We hadn’t planned on doing it quite that quickly as they took it to us at the beginning. We had a couple of quick shots where we didn’t make them play defense. We changed our strategy and got after them a little harder on defense and that helped fuel our offense.”
Sullivan Head Coach Dino McKinney said the change made a difference.
“We got a jump, but Dave did a great job subbing those five new guys in there. That really brought them a lot of energy. They had some guys hit shots who hadn’t hit shots all year. They shot really well. Hat’s off to them. We didn’t find shooters at times and didn’t finish possessions. I was happy with the effort the kids gave tonight.”
The Eagles had a dream start. Caleb Todd scored the first two baskets and Cody McKinney then hit a three. Neier called a timeout just 1:04 into the game and made wholesale changes.
Out came all of the starters. In went guards Michael Baylard, Alex Brinkmann, Spencer Hunter and Max Meyers along with center Brendan Smith.
“We knew we were going to change some guys,” Neier said. “We just figured we were a little bit better and better defensively that way, so when we came out and didn’t guard at the beginning of the game, we decided to get five new guys in and give them a chance. We hoped that would help us gear up the tempo and pick up the intensity. Those guys came in and did a good job.”
In 3:28, Borgia had the lead, 11-10, with the freshman, Meyers, knocking down a three.
At the end of the quarter, Borgia held an 18-17 lead and the Knights started the second quarter with the first seven points to stay ahead for good.
“A couple of our guys got hot, Spencer Hunter and Michael Baylard especially, and they put some big shots in for us. Then, we were able to get the ball to the basket.”
After the opening quarter, Neier made minor adjustments. Meyers was limited in what he could do after playing in the JV game. Slowly, some of the other players were introduced back into the game. Borgia was able to hang on through all of the Sullivan comeback attempts. The Knights were up 33-21 at the half and 46-34 after three quarters.
With the win, Borgia goes into the Christmas break with a 4-5 record. The Knights recorded two wins in December this year after going winless in the same month in 2016.
Sullivan is 4-3 prior to a Thursday game against Seckman to close out 2017. The Eagles won their first three at their home tournament before falling to Blair Oaks. Washington won in overtime at Sullivan last week, also by seven points.
McKinney said Sullivan was a bit shorthanded for the game due to illness.
“Cody has been awful sick the last day and a half,” McKinney said. “He gave us a good effort. We had one of our starters, Austin Lewis, not here tonight. We had a couple of other guys sick as well. They battled despite giving up a lot of size. I think we did a pretty decent job against that. It’s hard to guard the post kids and guards.”
On the night, Borgia knocked down 10 three-point baskets and that was a key in the comeback. Borgia also went 5-7 from the free-throw line.
Not only did Borgia’s guards lead the comeback, but they also cut the turnovers. After suffering 41 turnovers against St. Mary’s last Friday, Borgia was marked down for just six against Sullivan.
“People say Borgia has been struggling, but they’ve played some really good competition,” McKinney said. “They’re a really good basketball team and we knew that going in.”
Two of the Borgia point guard candidates tied for the scoring lead at 13 points apiece.
Baylard knocked down three three-point baskets and closed at that mark. Hunter hit four three-point baskets and a free throw for his scoring.
Baylard also had four assists with one rebound. Hunter added five assists, two rebounds and a steal.
Jacob Unnerstall topped the starting players with eight points and was 2-2 from the free-throw line. Unnerstall also led Borgia with nine rebounds and added four assists and a steal.
Dalton Shust also went 2-2 from the stripe and added a three-point shot for his five points. He pulled down four rebounds.
Brinkmann, Smith and Will Elbert each netted four points.
Brinkmann also had five rebounds, three assists, a blocked shot and a steal. Smith had three rebounds and two blocked shots. Elbert contributed eight rebounds and two blocked shots.
Trent Strubberg and Meyers scored three points apiece.
“We have quite a few kids who can play,” Neier said. “It’s just a matter of seeing who’s playing the best at different points during the game. It will be different players on different nights. We just have to keep working hard, helping each other out and learning to play as a team. It’s important we learn to play hard every second out there.”
Sullivan hit six three-point baskets and went 10-16 from the free-throw line.
“They’re always well coached and have good ballplayers,” Neier said. “You’ve got to play a good game to come in here and beat them.”
Cody McKinney was the top scorer in the game with 18 points. He knocked down two three-point baskets. He hit all four of his free throws.
Todd was next with 14 points, including going 3-3 from the free-throw line.
Landon Hoffman scored six points with a three-point basket.
Jacob Rohrer, Josh Wiese and Austin Frye scored three points apiece. Jacob Hatcher was next with two and Kaleb Lucas netted one point.
Neier feels his team still has plenty of work to do before it can be considered good enough.
“We’ve still got a lot of hard work to do over Christmas to be the kind of team we would like to be and have an opportunity to be,” Neier said. “I think this team has some talent. We just have to learn to play together and go out and play hard every minute.”