COLUMBIA --- You could look at this two ways.
One, it was there for the taking ... and St. Pius X took it.
Or, Fatima had more giveaways than a government program.
Either way, the Comets' error of their ways was too much to overcome.
Fatima committed a season-high 23 turnovers, including several crucial miscues down the stretch, as the Warriors knocked off the Comets 58-46 in the Class 3 semifinals Thursday at Mizzou Arena.
"The difference was the turnovers," Fatima coach Ryan Robertson said. "We had 23 empty trips and against a team like that, that's going to hurt you.
"Their ball pressure is tremendous. You try to mimic that in practice but it's so hard to do, because they have 6-4 guards and they're just longer and more physical than what we're used to."
In other words, this was more take than give.
"We just couldn't get into any of our sets," Robertson said. "Fundamentally, they're one of the best defensive teams I've seen."
The second-ranked Comets (28-2) held a 19-15 lead over the unranked Warriors (24-6) after one quarter. St. Pius X --- which received 17 points from Brian Kauffman --- led 30-26 at the half and 40-37 after three.
Fatima scored the first five points of the fourth, including a 3-pointer by Tom Zeilman with 7:05 left, to take a 42-40 lead. But the Warriors closed with a 18-4 run, aided by six Fatima turnovers, to pull away.
"It was one heck of a ball team we went against today," Robertson said. "I thought they were as good as anybody we've seen all year, along with Hickman, of course."
Patrick Schneiders scored 13 points for Fatima and Zeilman had 11, Chad Stegeman totaled 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Tanner Gentges added 10 points.
Fatima will face Lutheran North in the always-unglamorous third-place game at noon Friday.
"These kids are from good families with good character, and it will be pretty easy to tell which kids are ready and which ones aren't," Robertson said. "It's a character game."
Rest assured, you'll get the Comets' best shot.
"I'm ready, we're ready," Schneiders said. "We just have to go out there and get one."
The Salisbury Panthers once again have a chance to finish what they started.
The Panthers bolted to a 24-15 lead after one quarter and never looked back in a 81-65 dusting of Oran in the Class 2 semifinals Thursday at Mizzou Arena.
Second-ranked Salisbury (29-1) --- which fell 83-79 in last year's championship game --- will meet top-ranked West Platte (30-0) for the state title at 3:10 p.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
The Panthers, winners of 26 straight, are seeking the school's first state title. They left little doubt against Oran (27-4), as they led 40-29 at the half and 59-45 entering the fourth.
Salisbury's superb senior trio had another big game --- Austin and Zachary Wyatt, twin sons of head coach, and Austin Francis combined to score 64 of the team's 81 points. Francis led the way with 23 points, Austin had 21 and Zachary scored 20.
West Platte, which is also seeking its first state crown, held off a gritty effort by the Iberia Rangers in the other semifinal, 57-48.
The Rangers (27-4), making their first trip to the Final Four since 1968, enjoyed leads of 15-13 after one quarter and 25-23 at the half.
But West Platte, which received 20 points and 14 rebounds from Adam Roe, outscored Iberia 14-7 in the third quarter to take a 37-32 lead, and 20-16 in the fourth to win by nine.
Darrien Dickey poured in 22 points for the Rangers, who will meet Oran for third place at 3:20 p.m. Friday.
Chamois smashes way into title game
This was a matchup of two Division I players, one going to Missouri, one going to Southern Illinois.
Missouri should have taken both.
While Mercer's 5-10 senior Sierra Michaelis (she's going to MU) was quite good --- 27 points --- Chamois' 5-11 senior Miranda Brandt was the difference, as she totaled 23 points and 14 rebounds in the Lady Pirates smashing 62-39 win in the Class 1 semifinals at Hearnes Center.
Brandt had plenty of help. Paige Nolte had a huge game with 16 points and 15 boards, Alyssa Bullock tallied 12 points, and Alison Mehmert scored 11.
The Lady Pirates (23-7) outscored Mercer (28-2) by a whopping 28-9 in the second half to seal the deal, after holding a 34-30 halftime lead.
Chamois --- which is making its first trip to the Final Four --- will meet Walnut Grove (29-2) in the title game at 8:40 Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
Cameron 68, St. James 53
In the end, the Cameron Lady Dragons won the board-battle by a whopping 49-19 over St. James. They shot 51 percent from the field (22-of-43), while St. James shot just 31 percent (16-51).
Blowout numbers. But after two free throw by the Lady Tigers' M.J. Buschmann with two minutes left, lo and behold, St. James was within 55-51.
"It was a game," Lady Tigers coach Terry Wells said.
But the game soon slipped away, as the Lady Dragons finished with a 13-2 flurry to secure a 68-53 win in the Class 3 girls semifinals at Mizzou Arena.
"Disappointing game for us, we got beat in a lot of areas and we were never able to make one of our runs," Wells said.
"You can't shoot 20 percent (actually, it was 31 overall, but just 20 percent on 3-balls --- 4-of-20) and expect to win, that was a big deal tonight," Wells said. "We pretty much knew we were going to get outrebounded, we were just hoping it wasn't as bad as it was.
"But we also figured on winning the turnover battle to offset that, we've done that all year. We won it (22-7), but we just didn't turn it into any points."
Cameron (20-11) --- which starts four sophomores and a junior --- has a good team, obviously. But it's two great players who have carried them to the title game. The other players are just along for the ride.
In the first half, Ashli Lykins (5-9, jr.) scored inside, outside and on mid-range jump shots --- she poured in 22 points and almost outscored the Lady Tigers (25-5) by herself, as Cameron led 34-23 at the half.
"She came out in the first half and had something to prove," Wells said.
Lykins finished with a career-high 29 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
"The first half showed how good of a shooter she really is," Cameron coach Matt Wenck said. "She had a career-high tonight on a pretty big stage."
Then there's 5-5 sophomore Melia Richardson, who played all 32 minutes and single-handedly took care of St. James' swarming press.
"She's the quickest player I've even seen," Wenck said. "We have two, special players."
Richardson finished with 19 points, while Buschmann scored 17, Shauna Rinehart had 13 and Alexis Uffman 10 for St. James, which will face North Tech at 1:40 p.m. Friday for third place.
"The kids played hard, to the point of fatigue," Wells said. "We just didn't shoot well enough or play well enough to win."