By JON REITER
Rock Creek Academy nearly erased a 21-point second half deficit against host Borden, but the Braves held on in the final minutes of the contest to escape with a 68-62 win Saturday night.
“They made some really, really tough shots down the stretch,” Borden coach Doc Nash said of the Lions. “It was a tale of two halves, but it was a good win for us over a tough possible sectional opponent. Good win.”
Rock Creek coach Chris Brown, whose squad scored 12 points in the first half and put up 50 in the second half, said he was frustrated with his squad’s effort over the first 16 minutes. Following the game, he was focused on the first half rather than his team’s furious comeback.
“I don’t know that they did anthing different — they just played good, solid Borden basketball,” Brown said. “Our effort wasn’t there in the first half. Missing easy shots, throwing the ball around the gym. I expect us to be better than that.”
The defending Class A state champion Braves (11-3) came out the aggressor against the Lions, whose front line of 6-foot-4 Jeremiah Wilkinson, 6-6 Ronald Karenzi and 6-8 Gedeon Nzombi is the tallest and most imposing in all of Southern Indiana.
After Rock Creek guard Devin Burt scored on a drive to the basket seconds into the contest, No. 8 Borden scored 10 unanswered points over the next four minutes. The 10-0 run was capped by a 3-pointer from guard Josh Vollstedt with 3:44 remaining in the first quarter. After Vollstedt’s shot found nothing but net, Brown immediately called a timeout.
After the timeout, it appeared as if Rock Creek had new life. Immediately, the Lions went inside to Nzombi, who used his frame to score in close and end the Borden run. Junior guard Will Brown next came up with a steal and basket, and Nzombi scored again off a feed from Brown to cut the margin to 10-8 Borden with 1:35 remaining in the first quarter.
The 5-10 Vollstedt ended the 6-0 Lions run next by scoring with a running jumper in the lane and drawing contact from Nzombi — to whom he nearly gave up a foot. Vollsted sank the free throw to make it 13-8 Borden with 24.8 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
On Borden’s last possession of the first quarter, forward Garrett Vick’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer rattled out, glanced off the glass and went through the net. It was 16-8 Braves at the end of one.
Borden extended the lead throughout the second quarter and dominated the Lions, who went 2 of 9 from the field and only scored four points in the period. After Nzombi followed up his own miss to make the score 21-12 with 3:56 remaining, the Braves closed the first half on a 9-0 run to head into intermission ahead 30-12.
It was 37-16 with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter after Borden’s tallest inside player, 6-4 forward Zack Gillam, scored an easy bucket from inside the paint. While the Lions continued to cut into the lead, Borden still led by a comfortable margin at 48-31 at the end of three quarters.
Rock Creek hit the Braves with two fourth quarter scoring spurts. First, a 12-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Brown with 3:28 remaining that turned a 53-38 lead to a 55-50 margin.
It was 62-52 with 2:02 left after Vick sank two free throws. A 10-1 Lion run over the ensuing 90 seconds drew them to within 63-62.
Rock Creek’s full court pressure forced a turnover at midcourt with 36.2 remaining and reserve guard Reggie Bailey scooped up the loose ball, scored a basket and was fouled by Vick. After making the foul shot, Rock Creek trailed by a point.
Bailey made a mistake on Borden’s next possession when he was whistled for an intentional foul on Vollstedt with 27.1 seconds remaining. Vollstedt sank both free throws, and after Borden kept offensive possession, Gillam scored in close with a layup with 12 seconds left, essentially putting the game away with the Braves leading 67-62.
Behind Vick, Borden took it as a personal challenge to hit the boards strong against the much-larger Lions front line. The 6-1 Vick pulled down 14 boards during the contest, including nine in the first half.
“We talked about that,” Nash said. “We had to have that effort on the boards, and it wasn’t the first time we’ve been smaller than the other team. It was good to see.”
Vollstedt led Borden with 15 points, and both Vick and guard Caleb Hart finished with 14.
Brown led Rock Creek with 18.
Both coaches anticipate this might not be the last time these two teams do battle this season.
“There are a lot of excellent teams in [the Class A Borden] Sectional. These are two of the teams that can win it,” Nash projected.
Brown expressed similar sentiments after the game.
“You look at us, Borden, Christian Academy and Lanesville, I think right now it’s up for grabs,” he said. “We’ll take away some things from this game and try and learn from them.”
Borden hits the road next Saturday when they travel to Springs Valley (5-11) to try to avenge a shocking 34-31 home loss to the Blackhawks a year ago. It was the Braves’ last loss of their 24-3 championship campaign. The Lions are at sectional-rival Lanesville (10-7) on Thursday.
BORDEN 68, ROCK CREEK ACADEMY 62
Borden 16 14 18 20—68
Rock Creek 8 4 19 31—62
Borden (12-3): Brian McGee 5, Josh Vollstedt 15, Garrett Vick 14, Zack Gillam 9, Cody Craddock 11, Caleb Hart 14.
Rock Creek (9-7): Will Brown 18, Gedeon Nzombi 8, Devin Burt 4, Ronald Karenzi 10, Jeremiah Wilkinson 8, Tanner Gerth 6, Blake Joseph 5, Reggie Bailey 3.
Rebounds: Borden 28 (Vick 14); Rock Creek 27 (Nzombi 8).
Free throws: Borden 15-18, Rock Creek 2-3.
3-point goals: Borden 8 (Hart 4, Vollstedt 2, McGee, Vick); Rock Creek 6 (Brown 3, Gerth 2, Joseph).
Turnovers: Borden 14, Rock Creek 13.