WARDSVILLE - There was no quit in the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons.
Down by as many as 23 points to state-ranked St. James, the Lady Falcons kept fighting. However, a late rally ran out of time as Class 3 No. 2 St. James secured a 68-57 victory Thursday night.
"You can't ask any more. Our girls played hard. They played hard that whole game and didn't give up and scrapped with them," Blair Oaks head coach Leroy Bernskoetter said. "A couple things this way, that way, and the game changes. Some of it's them. Hopefully we keep turning the corner."
St. James (17-1) threatened to provide a sequel to last week's first go-round. The Lady Tigers defeated the Lady Falcons 78-44 last Wednesday in the semifinals of the Fatima Blue and Gold Tournament.
It looked like a repeat early on.
After LeeAnn Polowy scored the game's first five points, prompting a St. James timeout just 43 seconds into the contest, it was all Lady Tigers the rest of the opening frame. After being tied at 7, St. James went on an 18-2 run to assume control.
Whether it was crisp ball movement resulting in a wide-open 3-pointer or flawless screens followed by backdoor cuts, St. James put on a clinic on the offensive end in the first quarter.
"St. James is a good team," Bernskoetter said. "They're ranked and there's a reason why they are.
"They're going to pressure you the whole night. It's tough. They're not going to stop. If you have any little letdown, those turnovers turn into quick points for them. That hurt us."
A trio of 3-pointers from Alexis Uffmann in a span of 80 seconds was part of a surge that extended St. James' lead from 9-7 to 20-9. St. James held a 25-10 advantage after one quarter after going 9-of-12 from the field.
"We got lost," Bernskoetter said. "We did a nice job at first, but then somehow or another, we left Uffmann alone and she burned us.
"I don't know what happened - lack of communication, tired, whatever they can do to you - they make you pay. That what makes them so good. If you make a little mistake, they make you pay."
It was pretty even the rest of the way.
St. James took a 37-21 edge into halftime and led 57-40 heading into the final period.
A quick surge from the Lady Tigers handed them a 65-42 edge with 3:52 left in the game.
"Sometimes we rely on a quick shot," Bernskoetter said. "If you don't hit it, boom, here they come. Before you know it that game can get out of hand real quick."
Yet Blair Oaks refused to cave.
"We settled down after that, but it hurt us a bit," Bernskoetter said.
The Lady Falcons responded with 12 consecutive points to cut the deficit to 65-54 with 1:35 left. The rally came courtesy of four straight possessions that resulted in three points on the scoreboard. It started with Lauren Viessman canning a 3-pointer with 3:11 left. Polowy connected on a traditional three-point play, Sara Jones knocked down a 3 and Polowy added another three-point play.
Blair Oaks nearly came up with a steal on St. James' ensuing possession, but a jump ball went the way of the Lady Tigers.
Blair Oaks got as close as 10 on a pair of free throws from Chelsi Emerson with 18 seconds left, but that was it.
Polowy paced the Lady Falcons with 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Viessman added 14 points by going 5-of-8 from the field. Blair Oaks shot 20-of-51 (39 percent) from the field and 8-of-18 (44 percent) from 3-point range.
Ashlee Marlatt led four Lady Tigers in double figures with 17 points. Uffmann scored 13 of her 14 points in the first half, freshman Devin Fuhring scored 10 of her 11 points in the first half and freshman Kenzie Guese scored nine of her 11 points in the second half.
St. James connected on 26-of-44 shots (59 percent), including a whopping 18-of-23 shots from inside the arc (78 percent). The Lady Tigers held a 31-20 rebounding advantage.
Blair Oaks (10-6) is back in action Monday at North Callaway.