Fatima prepares for Class 3 Final Four

Patrick Schnieders of Fatima goes up for a 3-pointer during Saturday’s Class 3 quarterfinal victory against Strafford in Springfield.

Patrick Schnieders of Fatima goes up for a 3-pointer during Saturday’s Class 3 quarterfinal victory against Strafford in Springfield. Photo by News Tribune.

For updates from today’s game, follow Tony Hawley on Twitter at @tony_hawley.

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What happens when your dreams come true? You get busy trying to set and reach some new ones.

That’s the task facing the Fatima boys basketball team this week, who are preparing for today’s 1:40 p.m. contest at Mizzou Arena in the Class 3 Final Four.

After striving all year to get to this point, the Comets are trying to refocus on winning a state title.

“I got on them a little bit (Tuesday) at practice, because they were still in wonderland mode,” Fatima coach Ryan Robertson said. “It’s time to refocus. They’ve got all spring and summer to look back at what they accomplished, but let’s put it behind them for now.

“I told them, ‘Look what’s in front of you — if you just go out there and play like you’re settling, you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life. Let’s give this our best shot.’ We feel like we’ve got talent and ability and enough basketball skill to maybe grab a state title.”

The Comets are making their first trip to Columbia since taking second in the state in 1994 and fourth in 1996. Robertson was a player on both those squads, and said some things haven’t changed in all the years since.

“The one thing that shines through is the community support and help we’ve gotten,” he said. “Whether it’s someone running and getting video (on upcoming opponents) or as simple as people baking cookies for the team. People have been making signs and T-shirts, it’s really been enjoyable.”

It’s a feat worthy of celebration, especially when you consider the Comets hadn’t even won a district title since that ’96 season.

But now Fatima (28-1) will get refocused on the task at hand, which is St. Pius X: Kansas City (22-6). Like the Comets, whose only loss is to Hickman, the top-ranked team in Class 5, the Warriors have only lost to larger schools. They’ve got two losses to Class 5 schools and the other four are to Class 4 teams.

“They’re going to be battle-tested, they’ve played the best teams in Missouri,” Robertson said. “Our athletic ability is not going to surprise them.”

He added St. Pius X is a fundamentally sound squad.

“We’ve gotten some films on them, and their skill level is very good,” Robertson said. “They can really shoot it, they spread you out and drive it. And while they don’t have any real towering guys, they all run 6-2 to 6-4, they have very good size. Very rarely in high school will you see someone post up their guards and we’ve seen them do that on two occasions.

“They’re very well-coached, they run a lot of sets, so that’s another thing to deal with.”

While the Comets are focused on the Warriors, they’re more focused on themselves.

“We’re going to do the things we’ve been doing,” Robertson said. “Our thing is pushing the ball and trying to get into people and guarding them hard. That’s what we do and I heard a long time ago you should ‘Dance with who brought you,’ and that’s what we’ll do.”

Plus, if Fatima can run consistently, it will neutralize to a degree what St. Pius X wants to do.

“Their skill level is very high, and they’re so good in the halfcourt, so we need to steal some hoops by forcing some turnovers,” Robertson said. “If we get in halfcourt, we’ll rely on Chad (Stegeman) heavily. But we’re at our best racing up and down the floor.”

Making that task a little more palatable is the fact Stegeman seems to be recovering well from an ankle sprain suffered in Fatima’s quarterfinal win over Strafford. Robertson said he’s been moving better each day and it shouldn’t be too much of a factor today.

In today’s other semifinal, the state’s top-ranked team, Madison College Prep (29-2), will take on unranked Lutheran North (20-11) at noon.

“I haven’t even looked at the other side,” Robertson said. “We’ll take what’s at hand. We’ll get to watch them before us, which is nice. Any time you can watch a game before yours, it mimics the season with JV games before varsity. Hopefully our guys, who have a laid-back, loose mentality, will play that way if nerves don’t enter in.”

The championship game is set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday, while the third-place game will be held at noon Friday.

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For updates from today’s game, follow Tony Hawley on Twitter at @tony_hawley.

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