There are many things that can go wrong over the course of a high-school basketball season.
Injuries, illnesses and a lack of chemistry are just a few that come to mind. Then you have to factor in a grueling season full of long bus trips, late nights and possibly the winter doldrums, things that can affect the emotional state of these players. After all, these are just 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids.
So when I see a pair of area teams finish the regular season with one or two losses, consider me among those extremely impressed.
I'm of course talking about the Fatima Comets and the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons.
That's not a slight to any of the other basketball teams around the area. There's some real quality around these parts. Those two teams have just exuded excellence all season long.
And while they're surely applauded for what they've done, I think they deserve a little more recognition.
The Lady Falcons are a team we get to cover relatively often, as Blair Oaks joins Jefferson City and Helias to form the Big Three we center our main focus upon. Still, only eight of Blair Oaks' 24 games this season have been played out in Wardsville, leaving the coverage for two thirds of their games to a few pieces of information provided by a brief phone conversation with head coach Leroy Bernskoetter.
Fatima, on the other hand, is a team we don't get to cover much. A quick archive search shows we've reported on a game of theirs once this season, a 65-63 victory against Southern Boone on Dec. 22 in the 2012 Missouri National Guard Shootout at Fleming Fieldhouse.
Factor in the plethora of Jefferson City, Helias and Blair Oaks home games, Lincoln basketball, prep wrestling, having just four sportswriters on staff and the fact we don't mind a day off every now and then, it's tough to cover many games featuring teams outside the Big Three. While Fatima head coach Ryan Robertson does a tremendous job of getting us the pertinent information on every game the Comets play, it's still no more than a few paragraphs.
So that's why I'd like to put the spotlight on the Comets in this column.
Fatima just finished a phenomenal regular season that saw the Comets go 24-1. The only thing that came between Fatima and an undefeated regular season was a loss to the top-ranked team in the state, and I don't mean in Class 3, where the Comets reside. I'm talking about the No. 1 team in Class 5 - the Hickman Kewpies, who sit at 22-2 with one game left on the docket. That's a pretty darn impressive resume No. 4 Fatima possesses.
Led by a strong senior trio of Patrick Schnieders, Tanner Gentges and Chad Stegeman, Fatima has the look of a team that can make a deep postseason run. The only problem? Fatima's district is absolutely stacked. While the Comets hold the No. 1 seed for the Class 3 District 9 Tournament, the No. 2 and 3 seeds have legitimate opportunities to advance. Second-seeded St. James is 22-3 and third-seeded Cuba is 23-2. That's absolutely ridiculous. Fourth-seeded Dixon isn't too shabby either at 17-7.
Even if Fatima fails to advance out of districts this week, it does nothing to diminish the stellar season the Comets have had.
The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons just completed a fantastic 22-2 campaign that culminated with their first Tri-County Conference title since 2008. Both losses have come to St. James, a team that was ranked No. 1 a good portion of the season. Blair Oaks has vaulted all the way to No. 2 in the state poll, falling just behind top-ranked Saxony Lutheran.
LeeAnn Polowy is a scoring machine, Amy Dorge and Amanda Rackers provide strong post play and the supporting cast more than pulls its weight.
The Lady Falcons are the top seed for the Class 3 District 8 Tournament. Second-seeded California, the team Blair Oaks beat Thursday night to win the league championship, should really be the only competition in that district. A rematch for the privilege of moving on to the state bracket sounds enticing.
Unbelievable years for both schools, let's see how long they can keep it going.