Fatima ends the year in district championship game

Posted 3/8/23

Through the first half, Fatima looked sharp in Friday’s C4D9 championship game, holding Fr. Tolton (20-9) to five points in the second quarter for a 22-17 lead at the break.

However, that …

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Fatima ends the year in district championship game


Through the first half, Fatima looked sharp in Friday’s C4D9 championship game, holding Fr. Tolton (20-9) to five points in the second quarter for a 22-17 lead at the break.

However, that didn’t last, as the Comets saw shots bounce off the rim instead of through the net.

“There are things you can control; you can’t control shooting,” said Coach Ryan Robertson of the 47-36 loss to finish the season at 21-7.

Fatima had chances to advance but scored only two points in the fourth. The Comets led 34-33 going into the frame but missed the first eight attempts from the field and ended with only one bucket.

“That’s part of the game, but it’s not why we lost,” Robertson said. “I don’t look at that kind of stuff; I look at things I should have done to set them up for buckets. We always talk about things you can control. You can’t control shooting, so I don’t even think twice about that. The things we could control a little better, I will take the blame for.”

There was no doubt this would be a physically demanding game, as Fatima and Tolton have a history.

“Their defensive intensity is so hard to deal with,” Robertson said. “We were getting run-outs, had a good flow going, but when we couldn’t rebound, they started scoring, and it took us out of the running, out of the flow. We just got stagnant. He did a great job of going to zone for a couple of trips. I felt we had some good looks but couldn’t knock them in. It kind of snowballed a little, and I felt like we panicked a little, maybe. But I mean, just defensively, they’re so big. Any time we had any cutting action to the rim, it was challenged. It’s hard to convert over that length, but I can’t be more proud of the fight. Those kids are like sons to me.”

Holding Tolton in check through the first half may have been an energy thing. “I don’t know, but it just seemed like we did a good job of keeping them out of the paint and off the glass,” Robertson noted. “We went to zone a little bit to try to rest. I’m not so sure we shouldn’t have stayed in it a little longer. If you can control the glass and not turn it over, you’ve got a shot at the end to win.”

Fatima collected 26 rebounds, and Tolton finished with 35. “We’ll take that,” said Robertson. “That’s good enough to win.”

Robertson credited Tolton’s two guards, Exavier Wilson and Evens Appolon, who scored 12 and eight, respectively. “They scared us coming in,” he said. “They’re almost impossible to keep out of the paint. You help, they kick or find the big guy. They’re electric, and I think they’re fantastic basketball players.”

Levi Robinson, who grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, had the unenviable job of defending Tolton’s big post player, Appolon.

“Levi’s 70 pounds lighter and about four inches shorter,” said Robertson. “How tough these kids are, that’s what I’m gonna miss. They give you a lot of mental and physical toughness. Cooper (Kleffner) went down in the first, and Levi was down later. They weren’t going out like that. You just gotta love this team. I don’t care what school you’re from; you have to respect this squad.”

Senior guard Nate Brandt led the team with 15 points, covering a three-pointer and going 4-5 at the stripe. He needed only 11 to set the new all-time scoring record at Fatima.

Brandt broke the previous record held by Coach Robertson (1,861 in 1996), and an element of the unknown was involved. “He didn’t know the number, and we didn’t tell his family the number,” said Robertson. “We did nothing to change any of it; if this is meant to be, it’ll be. He’s missed several games in the playoffs that he could have shattered the record, so for him to do it in this day and age, with the scheming of coaches and video. When I played, scouting was non-existent. It was, but the scouting today is at another level, so for him to be able to do that in today’s age is incredible.”

The game was paused to recognize Brandt’s achievement, and later, Robertson had nothing but praise for the sharp shooter.

“I told the (boys) in the locker room after the game that some kids are good high school players, but the great ones have the ability to make everyone around them better,” said Robertson. “I’ve never seen a more infectious personality to make people around him better. Nate says let’s go do this, and we go do it. He’s not scared of anything or anybody. You saw it tonight. He’ll go challenge you, and it’s infectious. Everybody responds to that; he’s an all-timer.”

That was especially true in the first half. “When you’re hitting shots, your D gets a little better, your rebounding is a little better, you believe a little more,” said Robertson. “When you get into the paint, and they get it off the glass or a put-back, it kills your spirit a little. This team had their spirit broken for a little while. You could just feel the storm coming in, and all of a sudden, we’d get a stop. Our defense carried us and kept us in the game.”

Easton Haslag and Kleffner added seven points apiece to the tally.

Haslag put in a great performance. “In my time watching Fatima basketball, I can’t remember a more electric player, with his speed and endurance,” said Robertson. “A lot of times, he’s guarding the other team’s best player and still running, leading the break, and rebounding. He’s just an all-around solid player.”

Robertson also praised his bench players. “These guys work as hard as anyone every day, and when they get into the game, they give it everything,” he said. “You can’t ask for much more as a coach.”

Also scoring were Matthew Robertson with three and Jack Robertson and Robinson with two each.

On the glass, M. Robertson, Haslag, and Kleffner added four rebounds each, Brandt snagged three, and J. Robertson finished with one.

In the semis, Fatima knocked off Fulton 75-52.

All told, the Comets hit 11 three-pointers in an offensive show that saw Fatima shot 47.3% from the field. The Comets hit 12-18 at the line as well.

Robertson spoke of flow and its importance in the game, noting that everyone did a good job passing and sharing the ball until the open shot was revealed.

Brandt scored 33 points, with eight three-pointers on the night, as Haslag hit a trey and went 9-15 from the short floor for 20 points. Robinson added 10 points with a three-pointer and a 3-5 mark at the line. Kleffner finished with seven (4-4 FT), M. Robertson scored three (3-6 FT), and Kayden Struemph added a deuce. M. Robertson had a solid night at the point with seven assists, as Kleffner added four, followed by Haslag (3), Robinson (2), Logan Kliethermes, J. Robertson, and Brandt (1 apiece).

Kleffner and Robinson led with seven rebounds apiece, Brandt added six, M. Robertson and Haslag pulled down four each, and J. Robertson posted one.

On the other end, Haslag and Kleffner counted two steals each, and dM. Robertson, Kliethermes, and Brandt finished with one apiece.


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