COLUMBIA, Mo. - Things weren't exactly even in the even-numbered quarters during Thursday's game between Fatima and St. Pius X: Kansas City.
St. Pius had the better of things in quarters two and four in the Class 3 semifinal at Mizzou Arena, forcing nine Fatima turnovers in each frame, as the Warriors went on to claim a 58-46 victory.
In those quarters, the Warriors turned the Comets' miscues into a 33-16 scoring advantage, breaking open what was an evenly played game for 31â„2 periods.
The Comets ended up with 23 turnovers in the game to just 12 for the Warriors.
"That was one heck of a ball team we went against," Fatima coach Ryan Robertson said. "Watching film all week, I told the assistants they were as good as we had seen this year ... just because they're so good defensively.
"The difference today was the turnovers. We had 23 empty trips against a team like that, that's what's going to hurt you."
There were signs of problems early on. The Comets shot an astounding 75 percent in the first quarter - they made 6-of-8 shots, including all three 3-point tries - but turned it over four times and led just 19-15.
Patrick Schnieders was perfect in the frame, hitting both his 3s, making the only 2-pointer he took and connecting on his lone free throw to rack up nine points.
Then came a destructive second quarter for the Comets, as Fatima shot just 2-of-8 to go with its nine turnovers.
The Warriors started the frame with a 12-0 run to take their biggest lead of the first half at 27-19, turning the Comets over on seven straight possessions.
"We said we were going to go out and challenge them," St. Pius X coach Chad Wright said. "We feel like we can go out and guard people. We play great help-side defense and do a good job keeping kids outside of the lane."
The Warriors outscored the Comets 15-7 in the frame to lead 30-26 at halftime.
"Their ball pressure is tremendous," Robertson said. "You try to mimic that in practice, and we like to pressure the ball, too, but they're doing it with 6-4 guards who are a little longer, a little more physical than what we're used to."
The Comets took care of the ball in the third quarter, committing just two turnovers. They rallied to take a 36-35 lead with 3:03 left in the frame on a three-point play by Chad Stegeman.
St. Pius came back to lead 40-37 heading into the final quarter.
The Comets got a layup from Schnieders to start the fourth, then turned over the Warriors to lead to a 3-pointer by Tom Zeilman.
However, that would be the last lead for Fatima, as an 8-0 run gave St. Pius the lead for good.
That was better than any run Fatima had all game, as a 5-0 spurt in the first quarter was the biggest one for the Comets.
"We wanted to get out and run - we talked all week about how we wanted to steal some easy trips because they're so good defensively," Robertson said. "It seemed like we would get it out and run occasionally and push it, but it never seemed like there was an offensive flow for us."
Brian Kauffman dropped in a game-high 17 points to lead St. Pius to the win, while McKinley Mason had 12 and Nicholas Morgan added 10.
The Warriors (23-6) will play the state's top-ranked team, Madison College Prep (30-2) at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Mizzou Arena for the state championship.
"We're the first team at Pius since 1972 to make the championship game, so we're going to go out there and give it our all and try to get the "W.'" Kauffman said.
Schnieders paced Fatima with 13 points, while Zeilman had 11. Stegeman and Tanner Gentges had 10 apiece.
The Comets (28-2) will play Lutheran North (19-12) at noon Friday at Mizzou Arena in the third-place game.
"It's a character game," Robertson said. "(The players) can roll over and call it good, or they can come out here and fight and try to get one more win."
Lutheran North lost 69-43 to Madison in Thursday's first semifinal.
"I would assume they're going to try to press us and get in us a little bit," Robertson said. "... We've kind of been pressed all year, so I'm actually hoping they come out and press us. I think that's where Tanner excels, is beating teams down the floor and finding gaps against the press. So hopefully we'll be ready for that. If the kids respond, we'll be OK."
For updates on Friday's game, follow Tony Hawley on Twitter at @tony_hawley.