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Fatima to face gifted Strafford in Class 3 quarters

With many basketball teams, there’s two or three players you have to worry about when they have the ball.

That’s just the start of the problems when it comes to the Strafford Indians.

When Fatima faces Strafford in today’s 6 p.m. Class 3 quarterfinal game at Drury University in Springfield, every one of the Comets better be prepared to guard well. That’s because Fatima head coach Ryan Robertson said almost every one of the Indians can shoot the ball well.

“We’ve been talking about how if your guy has the ball, assume he’s a shooter,” Robertson said. “Now, some are better than others, but they’re all good.

“We usually switch on all picks and guard the shooters well, but our guys have all got to get ready to guard, because their guys can shoot it and put it on the floor. That’s the hardest thing to defend — the guy who can shoot it and put it on the floor.”

While the Indians may be young — their 12-man roster boasts eight sophomores — they’re also talented.

“Their skill level is very high,” Robertson said. “They have a solid post player (6-foot-3 Jacob Wade) and they compliment him with a lot of 4-around-1.

“They’re a typical southwest Missouri team, the same type that Blair Oaks has been seeing the past few years in the playoffs, the same type of team California saw last year. It’s good, fast basketball, not the beat-’em-up basketball you sometimes see.”

Strafford (24-4, ranked eighth in the state) has outscored its opponents by an average of 63.2-49.2 this season. Fatima (27-1, ranked fourth) will look to slow that down by limiting the Indians to one shot on each possession.

“When they spread you out and go 1-on-1 and shoot 3s, there’s going to be a lot of race rebounds, so we’ll have to do a good job on that,” Robertson said. “When you’re playing the teams remaining this far along in the season and you give them second shots, you’re just digging yourself a big hole. So we’re going to try to get them in one-and-done situations.”

On the opposite side, the Comets are going to want to be selective when it comes to pushing the pace.

“Tempo always slows when you get late into the season, and it’s not by design, it just happens,” Robertson said. “So we want to continue to push the ball, stressing that any time you can steal a basket in transition, we want to do it. All teams are so good (defensively) in the half court, you have to try to find ways to steal 15 points a game. Don’t walk it up and slow things down.”

While the Indians have plenty of weapons on offense, the Comets are no slouch, either. While Patrick Schnieders leads the way at 23 points per game, Tom Zeilman adds 11 and Chad Stegeman and Tanner Gentges add 10 apiece.

Stegeman leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per contest. Nolan Bax paces the squad with 8.5 assists per game, while Gentges contributes 6.5 assists per game.

The winner of today’s game will play either seventh-ranked Lafayette County (28-1) or unranked St. Pius X: Kansas City (21-6) at 1:40 p.m. Thursday in a Final Four semifinal at Mizzou Arena in Columbia.

The Comets are bidding for their first Final Four appearance since they finished fourth in Class 2A in 1996. Robertson was the leading scorer on that squad.

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