St. Joseph’s Academy meets Cor Jesu in Class 5 state high school girls basketball Final Four
By: Warren Mayes
St. Joseph’s Academy coach Julie Matheny enjoys taking her Angels to the state high school girls basketball tournament.
“A good day in March is when I get to go to Columbia for basketball,” Matheny said. “That’s something I always enjoy.”
This will be Matheny’s 10th trip overall to the state tournament. She had two as a player for the Angels, three as an assistant coach and now six as the head coach.
“We finished second both them when I played. We lost both times by one point, not that I’m over that,” Matheny said with a laugh. “It’s always a great experience at state.
“I’m happy for my girls. They’re so nice. They are a sweet group of good girls. They have fun competing.”
Her Angels defeated Columbia Hickman in 2004 for a state title. Other trips resulted in two second-place finishes along with a third and a fourth. St. Joseph’s last went to the Final Four two years.
Now they are back.
The Angels (22-5) face a familiar foe in Cor Jesu Academy (21-9) at 6:40 p.m. Friday (March 15) in a Class 5 semifinal. On the other side of the bracket, defending state champion Rock Bridge (23-5) plays Blue Springs (28-2) at 8:20 p.m.
St. Joseph’s earned its trip by defeating Parkway South 72-43 in the quarterfinals. Cor Jesu got past Hazelwood Central 51-40.
“Believe me, this never gets old,” Matheny said. “That’s what you start out every season thinking about — we want to do what; we can to get there; and now we’re there. Now we’ve got to finish.”
The Angels defeated fellow MWAA White member Cor Jesu 65-46 in early January.
“I think it’s a huge testament to our conference to have two teams in the Final Four at state,” Matheny said. “Year in, year out, our conference is so competitive. All the teams are so good. I’m thrilled for them.
“What’s good, I guess, is that we know each other so well. They’ve gotten a lot better since we last played them. They are playing with more confidence. They’re young but they got some nice seniors. They have passion and we have passion. It should be a great game.”
The Angels know they have two games to play this weekend. Two wins means a state championship.
“Our girls are very hungry. They are giddy with excitement but hungry for another game,” Matheny said. “A week without a game is a long time for us. Our four seniors will enjoy this. It’s a dream come true for them.
“I have tried to have them understand that’s is hard to get to this point. We’re here. We want to enjoy it but not leave anything behind. I have told them that you don’t want to look back and wish you would had done this or that. Give it your all.”
Despite being a perennial state power and playing away from St. Louis is big events out of state, the Angels are used to being on a big state.
Still, Matheny said, there is some pressure on the girls.
“Is there pressure” Sure. There’s always pressure,” Matheny said. “We don’t walk into any games thinking we’re not going to win. We want to be a state champion. At the same time, they know they give their best. That’ s all we can ask of them.
“We want them to do the same as they’ve been doing — work hard on defense and trust your teammates. We want to control the boards. We want to do the simple things perfect.”