St. Pius X did exactly what it wanted in the third quarter, when the Warriors held Strafford scoreless for more than 5 minutes and gave up just four points overall.
But it also had to be discouraging when the Pius girls saw they were still trailing by one point when the quarter ended. Perhaps it was too much to overcome in Strafford’s 49-38 victory on Thursday in a Missouri Class 3 basketball state semifinal at Mizzou Arena.
Pius trailed 27-20 at the half and closed the deficit to 29-27 on a three-pointer by Abigail Hipp with 2:21 left in the third quarter. After a Strafford basket, another three-pointer by Pius’ Antoinette Mussorici right before the quarter ended left Pius trailing 31-30 after one of their best defensive quarters of the season.
“I think we took them out of their offensive sets,” Pius coach Bob Fenzel said. “We executed like we talked about at halftime.”
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Pius held Strafford, a team that entered the semifinal averaging 68.3 points per game, to its second-lowest scoring quarter of the season, according to Strafford coach Steve Frank.
It was a position the Pius players were familiar with, Warriors senior guard Allison Malott said.
“We were in a similar position against Chillicothe in our sectional game,” Malott said. “We’re all so close, we hold each other up. We thought it’d be the same way today, but the odds weren’t in our favor. “
Strafford increased its lead to 40-32 in the fourth quarter, then sealed the win by making eight of 10 free throws down the stretch.
Strafford freshman Hayley Frank finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Pius, which was led by Hipp’s 13 points and nine rebounds, will play Southern Boone at 11 a.m. Friday in the third-place game.