The sting from a state championship loss was still fresh when St. Pius X girls basketball coach Bob Fenzel faced the media Saturday night at Mizzou Arena. It didn’t keep him from finding a little perspective and satisfaction though.
“I’m proud of our team,” Fenzel said shortly after St. Pius X fell to Incarnate Word Academy of St. Louis 59-37 in the final of the Missouri Class 4 girls state tournament. “We ended up 52-8 the last two years, been here back-to-back years, so I’m very pleased with all these young ladies.”
St. Pius X finished 26-4 both this season and last. The Warriors reached the Class 3 final four last season, and they made the return trip to Columbia this season despite moving up to Class 4. Abby Hipp, Pius’ 6-foot-2 senior forward, feared at first that move and a slow start to the season might keep the Warriors from making it back.
“At the beginning of the year I was wondering if we were going to make it,” Hipp said. “Nothing was really clicking. But after Christmas, we started getting going.”
After losing twice before Christmas break, St. Pius X would only lose one more time on its way to state. The Warriors reached the final with a 59-34 victory over Dexter that saw Hipp score 21 points and grab 14 rebounds.
But Pius couldn’t handle Incarnate Word’s quickness and full-court pressure in the final. Hipp had 13 points and 16 rebounds and Antoinette Mussorici tallied 12 points, but the Warriors made only 13 of 45 shots and committed 16 turnovers.
“It’s very hard to simulate that pressure in practice,” Fenzel said. “We tried to do it with six girls on the floor, we probably could have used eight to be honest with you. It’s almost a pressure you can’t prepare for.”
Fenzel believes Pius is prepared for another successful season despite losing a talented senior class led by Hipp, who averaged almost 15 points and 12 rebounds a game. Making back-to-back state tournament trips eased the sting Saturday, but only a little.
“I’m going to miss playing with these girls a lot,” said Hipp, who has committed to Missouri State. “It’s been a great four years. Obviously I’m looking forward to the future, but I wish we could have pulled off the ‘W’ today.”