Comets second at Joe Machens Great 8 Classic for second year

Posted 1/3/24

Fatima began playing in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic last year, finishing second. This year, the Comets hoped for a championship and came close with another second-place finish after falling 59-48 …

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Comets second at Joe Machens Great 8 Classic for second year


Fatima began playing in the Joe Machens Great 8 Classic last year, finishing second. This year, the Comets hoped for a championship and came close with another second-place finish after falling 59-48 to the Rogers, Ark., Mounties.

In the opening moments, Fatima jumped to an 8-3 lead after a layup from Matthew “Munch” Robertson with a Max Stuecken assist, followed by a Levi Robinson trey (Easton Haslag assist), and a Stuecken three-pointer on a Robertson assist with 6:06 left in the first frame.

The Mounties reacted with better shots that began to fall and used a 12-0 run to lead 15-8 with 3:05 to play in the quarter.

“We were making passes that I didn’t think were bad passes, and they were getting hands on them,” Coach Ryan Robertson said. “To have the long athletes like that, fundamentally sound, we couldn’t get into any of our sets really because they would just deny. We’re not used to seeing six long athletes like that. They picked on our weaknesses.

“When their offense started as hot as they were, especially from three, it was kind of what’s the mindset, what adjustments are you thinking about making?” Robertson added. “We knew they could shoot, but they’re so athletic you kind of have to live with some of it. We’re not going to beat a team like that if they shoot the ball that well. When they’re hitting like that, when we have to go out and guard, that kind of opens up the floor for their size. We have to hope they miss a little bit.”

Robinson, who scored a game-high 22 points and was selected to the All-Tournament team, stopped the bleeding when he challenged the Mounties for a layup. However, Rogers used a 19-2 run and scored the last seven points of the frame for a 22-10 lead to start the second.

Robertson, also named to the All-Tournament team, hit a three-pointer, and the Comets took a charge when Rogers drove to the basket. That made it a 22-13 score with seven minutes to play in the half.

A short time later, after teams traded baskets, Haslag drained two free throws to pull Fatima within 10 at 27-17.

However, Rogers continued to push the tempo, hitting back-to-back three-pointers to lead 33-19 with 3:44 remaining in the first half.

By the break, Rogers led 38-24, and in the third, Fatima began to cut into the lead, using a 6-0 run to get as close as 47-35 by the end of the frame.

The Comets continued to battle through the fourth, pulling to within 10 again at 48-38 with just under 6:00 to play. Rogers answered with consecutive treys to pull ahead 54-38 with 4:20 on the clock.

Overall, the Comets went 18-of-42 while converting 3-11 from long range and 9-13 at the FT line.

Haslag ended with 10 points for Fatima, followed by Robertson (8), L. Kliethermes (5), and Stuecken (3).

“I’m just so proud,” Robertson said. “These kids just keep fighting; they play for one another. I told them in the locker room, their heads have to be up. I think we grew this week, and I loved it. Obviously, you want to win that one, but man, did we grow this week.”

In reaching the title game, the Comets defeated Ensworth, a team from Nashville, Tenn., 59-50, in a very physical contest.

“This was a big win for our guys,” said Coach Robertson. “Ensworth had two excellent guards and a plethora of athleticism.”

The Tigers held a 20-17 lead after the first quarter and 31-30 at the break. Following an even third (15-15), the Comets closed the game on a 14-4 run for the win.

“Logan Kliethermes was an animal in this one defensively,” said Robertson. “His conditioning is next level. Max Stuecken also played his best game defensively.  We slowed Ensworth’s two guards enough in the second half to come out on top. Matthew, Easton, and Levi continue to attack the rim. This might’ve been one of Mathew’s overall best performances. Those three guys are being so aggressive, and it’s getting them to the foul line. This was an overall team effort because our bench gave us a huge lift as well.”

Fatima shot 48.4% from the field, covering 5-14 from the outside and 24-32 at the stripe.

Robertson led with 19 points (2-4 3PT, 7-12 FT), Robinson added 16 (1-3 3PT, 3-4 FT), and Haslag scored 13 (9-10 FT) as Stuecken hit a pair of treys for his six points, L. Kliethermes put in four, and Blake Kliethermes finished with one.

Haslag paced the team with eight rebounds, counting two assists and a steal. Stuecken finished with two rebounds, an assist, and two steals.

Fatima opened the tournament with a 53-47 win over Lausanne, a team from Memphis, Tenn. 

“We thought our guys did an excellent job of keeping them out of the paint and rebounding,” said Robertson. “It seemed like everyone stepped up all week long in that department. Even if an individual wasn’t getting the rebound, they were fighting for everyone, digging at them, getting on the floor, etc. Levi, Mathew, and Easton are filling the scoring column, but everyone is finding a way to help, whether it’s defense, rebounding, or other intangibles.”

Robinson drained two three-pointers and went 7-8 at the line, leading the team with 21 points. Haslag added 13 (trey), and Robertson had 12 (4-7 FT), followed by Stuecken (trey, 3), B. Kliethermes (3), and L. Kliethermes (1).