St. Francis Borgia boys basketball coach Dave Neier tried to have his team keep its focus on the next play, but it was hard not to dwell on the first quarter Friday night.
Class 3 No. 2 Tolton outscored the Knights 14-0 in the opening period to establish a comfy lead on its home court.
Unwilling to give in, however, Andrew Dyson’s offensive rebound and tip-in to start the fourth quarter brought Borgia within 11, the closest the Knights had been since the first few minutes of the contest.
“You’re really just thinking about the next play,” Neier said. “You can’t go back and think about (the first quarter). We have to get a stop and make sure we get a good shot. We lost some patience and rushed some shots. A lot of that was due to them. They have some talent on that team.”
Tolton responded with a 5-0 run from freshman James Lee to take a 46-30 lead and never looked back. The Trailblazers held on to defeat Borgia 57-40 behind a team-high 12 points from Jevon Porter.
Down 14 points heading into the second quarter, Cole Weber took over for the Knights. He hit three 3-pointers and had 11 of Borgia’s 14 points in the period.
Weber finished with a game-high 16 points and made four 3s.
“We have to be better regardless of what the score is and who the opponent is,” Tolton coach Jeremy Osborne said about his team’s defense after the first quarter. “We have to take care of what we can take care of, and we did for the most part. Our guys battled. We were more efficient offensively, took care of the ball better, and defensively, holding a team to 40 points is impressive.”
Along with Porter’s 12 points, Jonny Berndt and Chase Martin each had 11. The Trailblazers defeated the Knights 39-36 earlier this season.
With the score 41-30, Lee, a 5-foot-8 guard, fought for an offensive board and made two free throws after getting fouled. The following possession, he drained a corner 3 to extend the Trailblazers’ lead.
“James is going to be a good one,” Osborne said. “Nerves of steel. He doesn’t back down from anybody because he goes against these guys every day in practice. … The first thing you learn is you better compete or you will get embarrassed.”
Lee’s surge was the turning point in the game.
Neier knew it once it happened.
“At one time we had it down to 11, had a rebound and (Tolton) had that freshman who came in and ripped it out of someone’s hand, got fouled and made two free throws,” Neier said. “Then he came down, made one from the corner and it was up to 16 again.”
Tolton’s 17-point victory came a day after the Trailblazers’ 82-73 loss at Cardinal Ritter. Tolton has a week to prepare before the two teams clash again in Columbia next Saturday. It will be the Trailblazers’ final game of the regular season and their senior night.
Osborne was happy to see Tolton not overlook Borgia as the Trailblazers gear up for the rematch, especially with Cardinal Ritter winning the past three meetings between the two teams — all within the past 13 months.
“This was really big because even when we are up, we can’t get comfortable. Teams like Cardinal Ritter and even Borgia can come back really quick and get on a run,” Porter said.