TROY, Mo. • Seeded fifth in the 24th annual Troy Trojan Pepsi-Cola Invitational, the St. Francis Borgia girls basketball team played the underdog role to perfection.
After knocking off fourth-seeded Fort Zumwalt South and defending champion St. Dominic to reach the finals, the Knights held off a late rally to beat second-seeded Troy 54-48 Friday night in the championship game.
“It feels incredible,’’ Borgia senior Mackenzie Haddox said. “We knew we had a good team, but the seeding didn’t really bother us. To be honest, we kind of like it this way.’’
Knights coach Stacia Parsell agreed: “There’s something to be said about playing without pressure. We graduated four seniors, including an all-stater, so being seeded fifth wasn’t too much of a surprise. We’re pretty young -- we start two sophomores -- but we have some good hard-working girls who really love to play the game.’’
The Knights (3-0) threatened to blow out Troy (2-3) at several points during Friday’s game, but the Trojans refused to go away. Trailing 43-31 midway through the final period, Troy staged one final comeback attempt sparked by its pressure defense and a pair of long-range 3-pointers from Jasmin Mathews.
“With about three minutes to play, I just had a feeling that Troy still had some 3’s left in its game,’’ Parsell said. “They’re a very talented and dangerous team.’’
Mathews, who scored eight fourth-quarter points, hit her final 3-pointer of the game with 57.9 seconds left, trimming the Borgia lead to 48-46.
“When she hit that one, we were definitely worried,’’ Haddox said.
But the Knights hit six late free throws to secure the victory.
The title is Borgia’s second at the Troy tournament. The Knights also won the championship in 2003.
The Knights took control early, thanks to three first-quarter 3-pointers from Janie Arand. Borgia led 11-5 after a quarter and were up 15-8 when Arand knocked down a jumper in the lane midway through the second quarter.
But Troy outscored Borgia 12-4 to close out the half. Alycia Jones hit a jumper to give the Trojans a 20-19 halftime lead.
“At halftime, we talked about running the offense and about being patient enough to allow the offense to work,’’ Parsell said. “Young players tend to get impatient, especially under pressure. But when we ran the offense, we were able to get layups and free throws.’’
Haddox, who scored just two points in the opening half, led the way with two 3’s and eight points overall as the Knights started the second half with a17-point run to pull to a 36-20 advantage.
“Janie kept us in the game (scoring 13 of her team’s 19 first-half points), and I had a terrible first half,’’ Haddox said. “In the second half, I started moving better, coming off screens and looking for my shot.’’
Borgia held off a late run by Troy by hitting 13 of 19 fourth-quarter free throws.
Arand, who made four 3-pointers, finished with a game-high 26 points while Haddox made nine of 12 foul shots and finished with 17 points. Emily Grahl chipped in with eight points.
For Troy, Madeline Thoroughman scored 14, and Mathews added 12.
Eureka 59, St. Dominic 40 • Missouri State recruit Alex Hillyer scored a game-high 25 points as the third-seeded Wildcats raced to a 10-0 start and never looked back in the third-place game.
Eureka (3-1) led 16-8 after a quarter, 32-22 at the half and 48-31 after three periods.
Top-seeded St. Dominic (1-2), which had won four of the last five titles at Troy, got 14 points from Madeline Bathe.