Blair Oaks tops Fatima at Linn Invitational

LINN —Call it what you want: Frenetic. Breakneck. End-to-end.

Whatever word you choose, make sure you include “entertaining.”

The Blair Oaks Falcons and Fatima Comets locked horns Monday night in the title game of the Linn Invitational, and what transpired looked like a track meet, as a pair of up-tempo teams tried to see which one could assert its will.

In the end, it was Blair Oaks carving out a 72-64 win thanks in large part to the hot shooting of Kory Franks, who pumped in a game-high 25 points.

The junior guard drilled 9-of-14 shots, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range, to help the Falcons claim the title.

Blair Oaks was also able to overcome a whopping 25 turnovers, mostly because they were able to force Fatima into 26 of its own.

“Give our kids credit, they made enough plays down the stretch to get the job done,” Blair Oaks coach Ryan Fick said

Fatima coach Ryan Robertson agreed with that assessment.

“They just do such a good job of getting the ball out and beating you down the floor,” he said. “We’re a pressing team off makes and misses, and that really takes away what we do when you can just throw over the top without us getting set up. They do a great job of that.”

If you need an idea of how much action the teams crammed into 32 minutes, consider this. Despite their 26 turnovers, the Comets still managed to squeeze off 61 shots.

“We expected that pace,” Fick said. “Both teams like to play like that, so we were fine with the pace. Both teams ran a lot of guys in and out and stayed fresh.”

After Fatima took an early 9-7 lead, Blair Oaks closed the first quarter on a 13-0 run on a 3 by Franks, a layup and a three-point play by Logan Bax, a three-point play by Haydn Lock and a layup by Seth Eskens. The Falcons would never trail again.

Each team scored 20 points in the second quarter as Blair Oaks took a 40-29 lead into the break.

After Fatima’s Ross Dickneite canned a 3 to start the second half, the Comets had two defensive breakdowns that led to a 3 by Franks and a layup by Logan Gratz to put the Falcons back up by 14.

“We missed two big assignments to start the half right after talking about it,” Robertson said. “I thought that was huge. So we benched our starters and let our sophomores play plus and a couple guys that don’t play that much. And they did fine.

“What I think it did was, when our starters got back in, we looked quicker.”

Blair Oaks took its biggest lead of the game with 3:46 left in the third when Ryan Wilbers made a layup to make it 52-33. The Falcons’ lead was 58-45 after three.

However, when those fresh Fatima starters came back in, they started to walk down the lead in the early stages of the final period.

The Comets eventually got it down to 68-62 when Alex Dickneite made a layup with 1:31 left. But that’s as close as Fatima would get.

“We knew Fatima was going to make a run there in the second half and they did,” Fick said. “They’re well-coached, obviously.

“I don’t know if we were tired or what, but we got a little bit lazy in our zone late in the game. We didn’t do a very good job of getting to shooters and they were able to knock some shots down and make a run.”

In addition to Franks’ 25 points, three other Falcons reached double figures. Eskens added 13, while Bax and Gratz had 10 apiece. Gratz and Fatima’s Zach Buscher tied for the game high with seven rebounds apiece.

Robertson said Blair Oaks is a well-rounded squad.

“That’s Ryan Fick’s team and he’s doing it again. They know how to play, they play so hard and we credit them, they’re a very good team,” he said.

Austin Schubert paced the Comets with 14 points and Jared Schulte had 11.

Blair Oaks improved to 6-1 on the season while Fatima suffered its first loss, dropping to 7-1.

“We talked in practice the last few days that we had to value the basketball. I thought we had done a better job than (25 turnovers), but I guess we need to work on that a little more,” Fick said with a laugh. “We have to play Fatima again in about 10 days at their place, so I expect much the same as far as the pace goes. Obviously both coaches will talk about taking care of the basketball and hopefully that changes.”

Blair Oaks returns to action Saturday against Moberly in the Moberly Regional Medical Center Holiday Shootout, while Fatima is off until hosting Blair Oaks on Jan. 4

III

In the third-place game, Linn outscored Cuba 31-9 in the middle two quarters on its way to a 62-34 victory.

Linn led 22-14 after one quarter before stretching its advantage to 38-21 at the half and to 53-23 after three quarters.

Sam Vogel led Linn with 14 points. Jesse Wiggins and Zach Neuner had 11 each.

Linn (4-2) is off until opening play against Hermann on Jan. 6 at the Owensville Tournament.

III

Fatima’s Zach Buscher was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, leading the way on the five-man first team. The others on that team were Blair Oaks’ Kory Franks, Blair Oaks, Fatima’s Jared Schulte, Blair Oaks’ Seth Eskens and Linn’s Jesse Wiggins.

The second team consisted of Ryan Bouse and Taylor Thompson of Cuba, Logan Bax of Blair Oaks, Zach Neuner of Linn and Tom Zeilman of Fatima.

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