The Fatima Lady Comets --- making their debut in the State Farm Holiday Hoops Invitational --- received no favors in their inaugural game.
The smallest school in the field, however, almost made a big splash.
Facing defending tournament champion and unbeaten St. Joseph Benton, the Lady Comets led most of the way before dropping a 38-35 decision Friday at Rackers Fieldhouse.
"You know what? We take pride in being a small school and coming in here and competing ... and we competed," Fatima coach Nathan Hays said. "I'm really proud of our girls."
Fatima (4-2) led 9-8 after one quarter and 22-17 at the half, before Benton (5-0) nabbed a 27-26 lead after three quarters. There were three lead changes in the third and four more in the fourth, the last coming when Lindsay Doolan hit two free throws with 1:29 left to give the Lady Cardinals a 36-35 lead.
With 17 seconds left, Benton's Mallory McAndrews --- last year's tournament MVP --- hit two of this game's Most Valuable Points, two free throws to make it a three-point game.
Fatima's final possession ended up with the Lady Comets not getting off a shot, instead, turning it over with 1.8 seconds left.
"We played our tails off defensively, we just didn't have enough offensively," Hays said. "We turned it over too many times in the second half ... they put pressure on us and we just had too many empty possessions."
Morgan Brandt had a huge night for the Lady Comets, scoring 21 of her team's 35 points.
"She had a great night --- and she had the flu," Hays said.
Just think if she were healthy.
"She was half-breathing out there," Hays said, "and she did all we could ask for. But we have to have more balance than that, we can't have one person do all the scoring. Other people have to step up.
"But we got into this tournament to get better, and I think we're doing that."
Fatima will play Eureka (6-1) in the loser's bracket semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, while Benton will face Hickman (7-0) at 5:30 p.m. Hickman beat Eureka 72-67 in Monday's first game.
LADY JAYS 54, OKLAHOMA CITY-SOUTHEAST 28
At this point, the Jefferson City Lady Jays have played 19 less games than they did last season.
But they have one more win.
"Coaches, players, managers, nobody wants to go through what we went through last year," Lady Jays coach Shane Meyer said after the 26-point win. "All of our kids who are playing for us this year had to go through that, and they know what it felt like. But they have not let what happened last year hold us back this year.
"We don't spend a whole lot of time talking about it, for motivation or anything like that, but I think it's always in the back of their minds."
This was an early knockout-blow by the Lady Jays (4-4), who were 3-24 last season. They led Lady Spartans (0-4) 10-4 after one quarter and 25-8 at the half.
"We did a good job early on of being really scrappy on the defensive end, especially with our rebounding," Meyer said. "We didn't allow them many second-chance opportunities.
"Considering we hadn't played for two weeks, I was really happy with the way the kids came out and took a stranglehold on the ball game."
Kezia Martin poured in 22 points and Megan Foster scored 10 for the Lady Jays, who wrapped up the rout by outscoring the Lady Spartants 19-6 in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Jays will face Blue Springs South (5-2) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at Helias.
BLUE SPRINGS SOUTH 54, HELIAS 35
The lumps of coal came two days late for the Lady Crusaders. Or 363 days early.
Take your pick.
Helias (4-2) went nearly two quarters without scoring a point Friday night --- from the 56-second mark of the first quarter to the 2:25 mark of the third --- in a 15-point loss to the Lady Jaguars (5-2).
"We went forever without scoring," Helias coach Doug Light said, "and obviously that's a killer. They got their offense going and fed off all their stops."
A score by Kaysie Scheuler gave the Lady Crusaders a 16-10 lead late in the first quarter. They didn't score again --- about 14 1/2 minutes of game time, about 45 minutes of actual time --- until Ashley Rehagen hit a 3-pointer late in the third.
"That was tough, tough for our kids and tough to keep them up and engaged," Light said. "Even when we got open shots, we missed them."
Between points, Helias had 16 turnovers while getting outscored 20-0 in the second quarter and 25-0 overall.
"We didn't handle the ball very well," Light said. "You could just see (South) get the momentum and pick up their game, and we just didn't respond at all.
"It's a helpless feeling, it really is. But we've got some great kids and we're going to go back to work and make ourselves better. These kids will never quit."
Insult to injury --- obviously, Helias didn't make a field goal in the second quarter while committing nine turnovers. They were, however, 1-of-9 from the free throw line.
But that free throw was waved off because of a lane violation.
"A lot of things went wrong during that stretch," said Light, whose team will meet Southeast at 4 p.m. Saturday. "All you can do is chalk it up to being one of those nights."
MACHENS GREAT 8 CLASSIC
LOUISVILLE-WESTERN 51, HELIAS 39
Helias coach Josh Buffington sported a new look Friday night at Fleming Fieldhouse.
He was bald. Bald is beautiful, after all. This was not a tribute to bald guys, however, especially bald sports columnists.
Buffington accepted a triple-dog dare.
"Chad Carden, a very good friend of mine, said he'd make a generous donation to our basketball program if I did it," Buffington said. "So I did."
On this night, however, Buffington's hair wasn't the only thing that disappeared.
"We were a no-show," he said. "We didn't play with much passion and emotion, at times, and that's not typical of our team."
The Warriors (5-3) led 15-7 after one quarter, before the Crusaders (4-2) got within 15-12 on the heels of a three-point play by Hale Hentges with 4 1/2 minutes left in the first half.
That's as good as it got, however, as the Warriors led 23-15 at the half and 37-25 after three quarters.
"We played on our heels all night, on both ends," Buffington said. "We were flat offensively, we were slow to move to the ball, we weren't getting paint touches ... and our struggles on offense dictated our aggressiveness on defense. We just didn't play with much purpose.
"(Western) is very athletic. But rebounding and transition defense come down to effort and want-to, and we just didn't have it tonight."
"I don't know," Buffington said. "We're going to figure it out tonight and be ready to go tomorrow."
Here's an interesting stat --- through three quarters, the Warriors had been whistled for 14 fouls. The Crusaders? Three. And this wasn't because of one-side officiating.
"That's a bad sign, that's a sign of just not being aggressive," Buffington said. "We need to come in here (Saturday) and act like we're ready to play basketball and want to play basketball."
Isiah Sykes tallied 16 points for Helias, which will play the Jefferson City Jays in a loser's bracket game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Fleming Fieldhouse.
"Obviously, playing the Jays will be a very intense second-round game on the left side of the bracket," Buffington said.
OXFORD (MISS.) 47, JEFFERSON CITY 45
In Friday night's finale, the Jays used a 15-0 outburst in the first half to take charge against the Chargers.
But it didn't last, as the Chargers (9-1) overcame a 21-14 halftime deficit to rally past the Jays (4-4) in the first-round battle.
The Jays scored the final six points of the first quarter to take a 7-6 lead, and extended that run to 15-0 to build a nine-point lead midway through the second quarter. But the Chargers used a 15-4 scoring edge in the third to regain a 29-25 edge and maintained the lead in the fourth.
O.G. Anonoby led the Jays with 13 points, Jake White scored 12 and Darion Jones added 10, as Jefferson City braces for Saturday's crosstown-showdown with Helias.
Missouri teams went 0-4 in the Classic on Friday, as Tulsa Central beat Columbia-Battle 72-54 and Upper Arlington (Columbus, Ohio) routed Raytown South 63-40.