The meeting took place in December, and three captains from the St. Pius X High School girls basketball team excluded members of the coaching staff from eavesdropping. The sentiment behind the players-only gathering was to get everyone to buy in to the coaches’ defensive-minded philosophy.
Three months later, as the Warriors prepare for their first trip to the Missouri Class 3 state tournament semifinals since 2000, coach Bob Fenzel refers to a moment he didn’t witness as the turning point of the season.
“It seemed like after that, everyone on the team bought in to what we were trying to do. It changed our season completely,” Fenzel said. “Every day in practice, we work the defense very, very hard. That’s the message. They all seemed to get it.”
In the Missouri Class 3 semifinals on Thursday, St. Pius X will play Strafford at 1:40 p.m.
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The defense-first approach has led the Warriors this far, Fenzel says. St. Pius X, 25-3, has yet to allow an opponent to reach 50 points in a game this season, despite facing several big-class schools. In the postseason, the Warriors are giving up 28.8 points per game.
“There are a lot of players who might not score a lot, but they do the little things, the hustle plays, that we need to win the game,” Fenzel said. “They don’t care who gets the credit. That’s the attitude they brought after that meeting in December.”
It’s translated to the offensive end of the floor, where the Warriors have a balanced scoring column with four players averaging at least seven points per game. Abby Hipp is just shy of a double-double average, with 14.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Antoinette Mussorici is at 13.6 points per contest.
“That’s been a tremendous reason for our success,” Fenzel said of his team’s scoring diversity. “We have teams key on Abby, but that opens things up for other players who know how to score.”