The Rolla and St. James girls basketball teams opened up play in the Comet Classic in Fatima on Monday, Jan. 7. St. James started the day with a comeback 31-29 win over Belle, while Rolla cruised past Steelville 56-23.

Lady Tigers overcome rough start 

St. James had a slow offensive start on Monday, as they couldn't get anything to fall in the opening half. The Lady Tigers failed to score from the field in the first quarter, scoring just one point in the first quarter. The St. James defense was strong enough to keep them in the game though, as they trailed 6-1 through a quarter of play. The Lady Tiger offense didn't get much more going in the second, but still managed to score eight points, four of which came from Hannah Marcee. Much like the first quarter, their defense kept the game close, as St. James went into the half trailing 13-9. 

The Lady Tiger offense found the spark they needed in the third quarter thanks to Savanna Riccetti. The senior point guard knocked down a pair of threes and scored eight points in the quarter. As it did all night, the St. James defense was strong. Belle made just two field goal and scored seven points in the third, as the Lady Tigers carried a slim 21-20 lead into the fourth.

That slim lead went back and forth in the fourth quarter. St. James got a three from Bailey Wells, as well as baskets from Riccetti and Ashlyn Rinehart, but they still trailed with 23 seconds left to play. Riley Whitener then stepped up and knocked down the game-winning three, leading the Lady Tigers to a 31-29 win.

"We were able to survive and beat a team that was 10-1, while shooting 11 of 50 from the field," said head coach Terry Wells. "Our defense was stout enough to keep us in the game all night. We will continue to work and explore every avenue to get our team to play more consistently offensively.

Riccetti led the St. James offense with 10 points in the victory. Wells added five points and a team-high eight rebounds, while Whitener, Marcee and Rinehart each had four. Marcee added seven rebounds, while Rinehart had six boards and three blocks. Mikaela Donnelly and Aly Bullock each chipped in with two points.

The win sends St. James into the semi-final on the top half of the bracket against the top seed, Blair Oaks, who they narrowly lost to 42-39 earlier this season. 

Lady Bulldogs steamroll Steelville

Rolla then faced off against Steelville in the third game of the night. The Lady Bulldogs spread out the scoring early, as six different Rolla players scored in the opening quarter. Steelville was able to hang around in the first, but Rolla still finished the quarter with a 15-10 lead. 

The Lady Bulldogs put the game away in the second quarter thanks to an excellent defensive effort. Steelville scored just three points in the quarter, while the Lady Bulldogs kept rolling. Carli Libhart hit her second three of the game, while Loran Pritchett had her second straight four point quarter to lead the Lady Bulldogs to a 28-13 lead at the half.

Rolla finished the game strong after the half. Steelville managed to score just 10 points in the entire second half. Meanwhile, Savannah Campbell took over in the third. She scored eight of Rolla's 13 points in the quarter, as the Lady Bulldogs put the game out of reach. Ellie Rodgers then finished the game with an exclamation point, scoring eight points on two threes in the fourth to seal a 56-23 win. 

"We got off to a slow start. We turned the ball over our first three or four possessions and didn’t defend very well. About halfway through the second quarter we started playing more like we should," said head coach Luke Floyd on the win. "I give the girls a lot of credit for playing great defense to keep us in the game until our offense got going." 

Campbell led Rolla in scoring with 12 points to go with three assists, two steals and a block. Pritchett added nine points, five rebounds, two steals and an assist. Libhart also scored nine points, while adding a pair of rebounds an a steal. Rebecca Janke chipped in with eight points, three blocks, four rebounds and a steal, while Rodgers also scored eight points to go with four steals and two rebounds. Olivia Burken added four points, four steals, four rebounds and three assists. Madison Mace led the team in steals with five, while dishing out four assists and scoring two points. 

Rolla advances to the semi-final on the bottom half of the bracket to face the second seed, Fatima, the host of the tournament. Both of the semi-final games will be played on Wednesday night.