SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Fatima girls basketball coach Dustin Hays was quick to tip his cap to Ash Grove.
The Lady Pirates simply had a better night.
No. 8 Ash Grove shot 48 percent from the field and knocked six 3-pointers to claim a 58-47 win against Fatima in a Class 3 quarterfinal game in front of a packed crowd Saturday at the O'Reilly Family Event Center.
"I don't think you look at this game and say Fatima didn't play well," Hays said. "I don't think you look at this game and say Fatima's defense didn't hold up. I think you look at this game and you say Ash Grove made shots when they needed to.
"I think our girls gave their all - I really do."
Fatima led 12-10 after the first quarter, but for every run the Lady Comets (24-5) put together after that, Ash Grove (27-4) had an answer
The biggest momentum swing came in the second quarter, when Fatima pulled within four points despite being outscored 9-3 in the first five minutes of the frame.
The Lady Comets had a chance to pull within two in the closing seconds, but Ash Grove recovered the missed shot and Madilyn Johnson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Lady Pirates a 22-15 lead at halftime.
"I think the 3 at the end of the half was big for them," Hays said. "It makes it a totally different ball game."
Fatima junior Morgan Brandt hit a pair of free throws to cut the Lady Comets deficit to 29-25 with 2:19 to play in the third quarter. It was the third time Fatima came within four points in the quarter, but Ash Grove answered in a big way.
Abby Arrico and Madilyn Johnson knocked down a pair of 3s and Jamie Mauss followed with a three-point play to give Ash Grove a 38-27 advantage entering the final period.
"They did not miss," said Brant who finished with a game-high 22 points. "They just kept shooting. We had a hand up in their face. They had a good night. They ended up being the better team tonight."
Fatima opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to cut its deficit to 38-32 with seven minutes to play, but that's a close as the Lady Comets would get.
"They put on a lot more pressure than we thought," Hays said. "We never could get into our offense. They put so much pressure on at the top. We're starting our offense at half court and could never get in a flow, offensively - could never get in a rhythm, never could get into any of our sets.
"Once again, you've got to give them credit. Their defensive intensity, their defensive pressure was outstanding."
Annie Bock scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting and Logan Abbot chipped in with eight to lead the Lady Comets, who committed 16 turnovers.
Fatima was 15-of-38 from the field, including 1-of-9 from behind the arc. Brandt, the only player to get to the free-throw line for the Lady Comets, was 14-of-18 from the charity stripe.
"They were in our face the whole time," Bock said. "Most teams aren't like that. They were in our face and kind of shook us up a little bit.
"Give Ash Grove a lot of credit."
Johnson scored 15 points, while Lakin Simmerman added 11, and Abby Arico chipped in with 10 to lead the Lady Pirates, who were 18-of-37 from the field, including 6-of-17 from the 3-point line, and 16-of-22 from the charity stripe.
"Our game plan was to get a hand in their face and they scored over our hand every single time," Bock said. "They did really good, they came out strong, and they didn't miss. "
Still, the Lady Comets, who will only lose Logan Abbot to graduation, aren't hanging their heads after putting together one of the most successful seasons in recent years.
But they are anxious to get back to get back to work.
"I couldn't be prouder as a coach," Hays said. "The first words I said to them in the locker room after the game was, "Thank you.' I thanked them for an outstanding season.
"People knew we had talent, but when you look at the top-10 rankings, you look at some of these things and nobody's talking about Fatima. These girls changed that. This is something we can build on for next year. I think more people are going to expect big things from us next season."
Added Brandt: "We made a statement for Fatima basketball."