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Zion finishes national runner-up

Posted on 18 April 2012 by LeslieM

Pictured (L-R) (back row): Assistant Coach Joseph Harrigan, Nash Williams, Justin Nobles, Chris Judge, Brogenskee Polynice, Jephthe St Fleur, Jordan Strowbridge, Brandon Bornelus, Assistant Coach Scott Rosado, head coach Francis Bornelus; (front row): Coulton Yanulevich, Joshua Forde, Noah Rosado, Adrian Johnson, Preston Piltoff. Submitted photo.

By Gary Curreri

While the Zion Lutheran Middle School boys’ basketball team may not have come home with the gold from the recent National Lutheran Basketball Tournament in Indiana, the Lions turned heads and made some history in the process.

Eighth graders Brandon Bornelus and Brogenskee Polynice were selected to the All Tournament Team after helping the Lions to a runner-up finish in the weeklong, 32-team tournament at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Zion Lutheran was the lone boys’ school to have two members of its squad named to the All-Tournament team.

Zion Lutheran, which placed 12th in last year’s national tournament, opened this year’s event with a 50-41 victory over St. John, S. Euclid, Ohio and followed that up with three consecutive one-point victories to reach the championship game against Our Redeemer from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where it dropped a 54-39 decision.

Francis Bornelus was the team’s head coach and was assisted by Scott Rosado and Joseph Harrigan. The coaches nicknamed the players, The Cardiac Kids, following their narrow, lastsecond victories. Bornelus hit two game-winning baskets for the Lions.

“The kids were really, really super resilient and executed late game situations pretty well,” said John Guion, the school’s director of basketball operations and the assistant athletic director.

He is also the head varsity basketball coach. The team had lost in the state finals to St. Paul of Boca Raton, 48-47, last month.

“Chris Judge was huge for us,” Guion added. “He was a kid who didn’t have more than 10 points all year in a game and he had 16 in one of the games. Chris was so impressive. He just stepped up at the right place at the right time. He was huge for us. Polynice averaged a doubledouble for us in every game and Preston Piltoff hit a key 3-pointer in just about every game.”

Zion Lutheran also defeated Pilgrim (Green Bay, Wisconsin), 33-32, Shepherd of the Hills (San Antonio, Texas), 48-47, and Salem (Orange, California), 43-42, to advance to the title game.

“Honestly going into the tournament, we weren’t sure where we stacked up,” Guion said. “We knew we had a pretty good team. We were second in the state of Florida and we knew that St. Paul (Boca Raton) was strong. As soon as we got the first win, it just snowballed from there.

“The kids treated it as a business trip,” Guion said. “It wasn’t about having fun, it was about accomplishing something.”

Guion said the team lost in the final to a better team, but said the players handled the adversity very well and showed good sportsmanship.

“It was disappointing to lose in the final initially, but when they realized how they had come a long way,” Guion said, “it was a good result. There isn’t too much to be disappointed about. They did a great job of competing.”

Guion said it bodes well for the future of Zion Lutheran. The Lions varsity team finished the season at 16-6, but suffered a first-round loss in the district tournament.

“I expect these kids to move up and help the varsity next year,” Guion said. “Those kids that moved up from last year were pretty good players and helped my team as freshmen. Hopefully, that success works its way to me.”

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