Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
Last season, the Fatima girls basketball team faced St. Joseph Benton in the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational and was held to a season-low 35 points in a losing effort.
The Lady Comets were able to score five more points this season, but the outcome was a familiar one, as the Lady Cardinals defeated Fatima 51-40 on Saturday at Rackers Fieldhouse in Jefferson City.
The loss was Fatima’s first of the year and the first time the Lady Comets failed to score more than 40 points in a game. Fatima averaged 68 points its last three games before the tournament.
Like last time, the Lady Cardinals’ defense gave Fatima trouble.
“We haven’t been able to solve it yet,” Lady Comets coach Dustin Hays said. “They put a lot pressure on you, and they’re always in the right spot. They’re just so fundamentally sound. If you beat one girl off the dribble, there’s three right there in the paint waiting for you.”
On the flip side, the Lady Comets weren’t able to mirror the Lady Cardinals’ success guarding drives.
“They beat us off the dribble, and our help side just wasn’t there,” Hays said.
St. Joseph Benton jumped out to a 13-4 lead with 1:57 to play in the first quarter, but the Lady Comets responded with an 8-0 run to come within 13-12 with 6:42 to play in the second quarter.
“Offensively, we were just moving the basketball,” Hays said. “We get into a habit of trying to go 1-on-1 too much, and the ball sticks. We talk about it in practice all the time. The ball can’t stick. We’ve got to move it. We’re at our best when we’re going inside-out, we’re getting some dribble penetration and drive and kick, things like that.”
Morgan Brandt scored the last six points of the run. She struggled from the field early, missing six of her first seven shots from the floor, but finished with a team-high 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting and a 6-of-8 performance from the free-throw line.
Unfortunately for Brandt and the Lady Comets, that 13-12 margin was as close as they would get. The Lady Comets only led for 17 seconds in the game and weren’t able to tie the score after St. Joseph Benton took the lead with 5:06 to play in the first quarter.
But Fatima didn’t fade away. The Lady Comets actually outscored the Lady Cardinals in the third quarter and were only outscored by one point in the second half.
In addition to Brandt’s 20 points and seven rebounds, Annie Bock scored seven points and grabbed four boards.
St. Joseph Benton was led in scoring by Kylee Williams’ 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting. All-state guard Mallory McAndrews scored 20 for the Lady Cardinals.
Fatima will attempt to bounce back from its first loss of the season against Jefferson City, which lost 43-34 to Blue Springs South on Saturday.
“This isn’t a normal tournament, I would say. You lose, and you’ve got to either play Blue Springs South or Jeff City,” Hays said. “That’s pretty tough, obviously, for a school our size, but this is the reason why we’re doing it.
“So there’s two ways we can go. This is their first loss. Do we hang our heads and do we pout or do we bounce back and do we play hard (today)? We’ll find out.”
Tipoff is at 2:30 p.m. today at Rackers Fieldhouse. St. Joseph Benton plays Blue Springs South at 5:30 p.m. in a winner’s bracket semifinal.