By GREG MENGELT
Borden got off to a hot start, went cold and allowed University to take the lead, then came from behind to win its first Class A semistate championship 47-44 over the Trailblazers on Saturday at Scott Gym.
The 10th-ranked Braves (23-3) earned their first comeback victory in the tournament and a berth in next Saturday’s Class A state championship game against Triton (20-5) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“No words can explain it. It’s the best feeling in the world,” Borden senior point guard Billy Kirchgessner said. “I just can’t explain it.”
“It’s crazy,” Braves’ senior Cody Bachman said. “All these people here love us. It’s emotional, for sure.”
Only the Trojans, who are were tied for 10th in the final Associated Press Class A poll with Borden, stand between the Braves and their first state championship.
“We’ve got 32 minutes left for a state championship,” Borden coach Doc Nash said. “That was one of our goals at the beginning of the year. We have an opportunity to attain that goal. There’s no better feeling in the world.”
“It’s never happened before so I don’t know what to expect [this week],” said Braves’ senior Jalen McCoy, who scored 17 points for the third straight tournament game.
Senior Michael Lynch, who added 15 points and seven rebounds in the victory, said the Braves are focused on bringing the title back to Borden.
“I don’t predict a win, but I do expect a win,” Lynch said.
Borden had a chance to put the game away at the free-throw line, but Bachman and McCoy both missed a pair of free throws in the final 24 seconds. After McCoy’s second miss, Bachman knocked the rebound out of bounds, giving the Trailblazers a chance to tie with 12.1 seconds left.
University (15-12) tried to get the ball to sharpshooter Eric Wott, but McCoy knocked the ball away. He chased the ball down, dribbled toward the Braves’ basket, then tossed the ball in the air as the horn sounded, setting off a celebration in front of a packed house at Scott Gym.
“Coach said we shouldn’t give up a [3-pointer],” McCoy recalled. “We wanted to get up on them. He dribbled in front of me. I tipped it out and just ran as far as I could to the other side of the court. I just wanted to waste enough time so they couldn’t get another shot off — and it worked. We’re semistate champions, baby!”
When McCoy dribbled toward the basket, his coaches and teammates wondered what his plan was — until his heave ran off the final seconds.
“Somehow he got a hand on it,” Nash said. “He took off dribbling and I thought, ‘Oh no!’ He threw it up and I saw the clock run out and I thought, ‘Great job!’”
“For a second I was thinking, ‘What is this idiot doing?’” Bachman recalled. “I didn’t know how much time was left. Once I saw him throw it in the air, it was a great feeling and I knew it was over.”
“It was the best feeling ever seeing him run away with that ball,” Borden junior Garrett Vick recalled.
After opening the game with a 9-0 run, Borden led 15-8 at the end of the first quarter and 26-21 at the break. University outscored the Braves 16-7 in the third to take a 37-33 lead and the Trailblazers still led 41-37 with five minutes to play.
That’s when McCoy and Lynch took over. McCoy hit a 3 to trim the advantage to one before a Lynch drive knotted the contest at 42 apiece.
Two Vick free throws gave Borden a 44-42 lead with 3:05 left in regulation. After a bank shot by University’s Robbie Johnson tied the game again, Lynch gave the Braves the lead for good with an offensive putback with 1:30 remaining.
“The kid’s a winner,” Nash said of Lynch. “Tough kid, made plays for us. He’s a smart kid. He’s a winner.”
“[Lynch’s buckets] were huge,” McCoy said. “He stepped up for us. I guess he likes shooting big shots.”
Kirchgessner made 1-of-2 free throws with 35.2 seconds remaining. An air ball by the Trailblazers’ Anthony Murdock wound up in the hands of Bachman, who was fouled with 24.6 seconds left. Bachman missed both free throws, but University’s Dominic Dixon couldn’t handle the rebound and it trickled out of bounds.
McCoy was then fouled with 12.1 seconds left. He also missed both free throws, giving the Trailblazers a chance at tying the contest in the final seconds.
“I guess we didn’t shoot enough free throws this week,” Nash said. “When there’s 7,000 people here and the games on the line and you’re 16, 17, 18 years old, that’s a lot of pressure for a kid.
“We didn’t make free throws, but we made plays. We shoot 70 percent as a team [from the line]. We missed them tonight. So what? We move on.”
“You can’t simulate and environment or pressure like this,” Bachman said.
Despite going 19-of-33 from the line, free throws were the difference in the contest. The more aggressive Braves took 25 more shots from the foul line than University did.
“I don’t want to harp on it, but 33-8 on the free throws, that’s a big thing,” University coach Paul Gianakos said. “I’m not going to use it as an excuse. We were right there and nobody gave us a chance.”
Lynch got Borden on to a fast start with a drive and a floater in the lane for a 4-0 lead. A McCoy 3, a Vick layup on an assist from Kirchgessner and a Lynch putback gave Borden an 11-0 advantage less than seven minutes into the contest.
“It sent them a message that we were here to play, that we want to go to the state championship game,” Lynch said of the start.
“We had a bad start,” Gianakos said. “All season long, we’ve come back from being behind. We could have folded early, but the kids didn’t panic.”
University turned the ball over six times in the first quarter, including five times in the first five minutes. Kirchgessner had three of his game-high eight steals in the first quarter. The Braves had six steals in the opening period and finished with 14.
“Billy’s a winner. He’s scrappy,” Nash said.
“We had some untimely turnovers and made some bad decisions,” Gianakos said. “They capitalized.”
Johnson, who led Trailblazers with 14 points, scored the final five points of the first quarter, including a 30-footer 3-pointer at the buzzer, to cut the deficit to 15-8 at the end of the first quarter.
University then outscored Borden 13-11 in the second quarter to get within 26-21 at the break.
“We got a little relaxed and didn’t keep attacking,” Kirchgessner said. “That will always bite you in the butt.”
“I think it might have gotten to our heads a little bit,” McCoy said. “Next thing you know it’s a two-point game and they came back and took the lead.”
Borden didn’t make a shot in the third quarter, missing all 13 shots. McCoy missed all six of his shots and Lynch was 0-for-3
“I was getting pretty mad, especially at myself,” Lynch said. “I know my role on this team is to put the ball in the hole as much as I can. The shots were there. They just weren’t falling.”
“The thing about it is, we took good shots. They just didn’t go in,” Nash said. “Most nights they’re going to go in. The kids are confident in what they do.”
“I thought our defense in the third quarter was outstanding,” Gianakos said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win and that’s where you want to be in this environment.”
Kirchgessner finished with nine points, eight steals and four assists, while Vick added five points and seven boards.
In their first semistate appearance, the Trailblazers, who outrebounded Borden 31-24, got nine points and nine boards from Dixon, a 6-foot-8 center.
CLASS A SEYMOUR SEMISTATE
BORDEN 47, UNIVERSITY 44
Borden 15 11 7 14—47
University 8 13 16 7—44
Borden (23-3): Billy Kirchgessner 1-5 7-9 9, Garrett Vick 1-5 3-7 5, Jalen McCoy 5-13 3-6 17, Michael Lynch 5-12 5-7 15, Cody Bachman 0-3 1-4 1. Totals 12-38 19-33 47.
University (15-12): Eric Wott 2-6 0-0 6, Mikhail Liston 3-7 1-2 7, Sam Forkin 1-3 0-0 3, Robbie Johnson 5-8 3-5 14, Dominic Dixon 4-8 1-2 9, Anthony Murdock 1-1 0-0 2, Anthony Maranto 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 17-35 5-8 44.
3-point shooting: Borden 4-8 (McCoy 4-7, Kirchgessner 0-1); University 5-11 (Wott 2-5, Forkin 1-2, Johnson 1-1, Maranto 1-1, Liston 0-1, Dixon 0-1).
Rebounds: Borden 24 (Lynch 7); University 31 (Dixon 9, Murdock 9).
Assists: Borden 4 (Kirchgessner 4); University 2 (Dixon 2).
Steals: Borden 14 (Kirchgessner 8); University 6 (Johnson 2).
Blocked shots: Borden 1 (Bachman); University 5 (Dixon 4).
Turnovers: Borden 10, University 21.