TMP girls fall at Russell
Published on -2/28/2013, 10:27 AM
By KLINT SPILLER
RUSSELL -- Wednesday epitomized Thomas More Prep-Marian girls' basketball team's season.
The Monarchs (6-14) hung with a good team and erased a double-digit fourth-quarter lead, but in the end, they couldn't capitalize and win.
TMP fell 50-40 to Russell in the first round of Class 3A sub-state action at Russell's Amos Morris Fieldhouse. The loss ended TMP's season -- the first losing campaign since 2002-2003.
"It's tough, because there's four seniors sitting in the locker room," said first-year head coach Rose McFarland regarding her post-game speech. "It was their last game. They gave it everything they got. They battled hard all year."
Russell (16-5) was the No. 1 seed in the sub-state bracket, but Bronco head coach Frank Schulte said this wasn't the typical No. 1-versus-No. 8 seed matchup.
"They are a lot better than an eight seed," he said.
Russell built a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter, but TMP battled back, playing aggressive defense and forcing turnovers.
The Monarchs trailed just 44-40 with two minutes left.
Then senior forward Jenna Schuckman missed two free throws that could have made it a one possession game, and three TMP turnovers later, the game was out of reach once again.
SDLqThat seems to be our biggest struggle right now," said Russell senior forward Madison Beagley. "We'll get up by quite a few points, and then towards the end, we'll get kind of nonchalant about it and start to fade away. After a timeout and a good yelling by Frank, we usually kick it into gear. We like to make it interesting."
Nevertheless, McFarland said she was proud of her squad's effort. The team's never-say-die attitude has been prevalent all season, even in the midst of long losing streaks.
"I'm just real proud of their effort," McFarland said. "They are great kids. That's the bottom line, and that's probably the most important thing is their character and how they handled this season."
Russell demonstrated why it was the No. 1 seed in many ways.
The Broncos made 18 of 35 from the field, and the forward tandem of Beagley and junior Janna Schulte, Frank Schulte's daughter, propelled Russell all night.
Beagley scored a game-high 19 points, and Schulte added 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
The two also rotated on defense guarding TMP's top player, senior point guard Heather Ruder.
Russell ran a box-and-one defense to shut Ruder down with either Beagley or Schulte guarding her.
Frank Schulte said he did that so neither player would get tired.
"I felt like if one of them guarded her the whole game, it would take some offense away from us on the other end," he said.
Though Beagley and Janna Schulte are forwards, their athleticism was enough to keep pace with Ruder. Ruder finished with just nine points on 3-of-10 shooting.
"They are my best defenders," Frank Schulte said.
Frank Schulte said this was Janna's best overall game of the season, especially considering she shouldered the burden while Beagley was in foul trouble. Janna Schulte applied aggressive defense inside and on Ruder, was a rebounding machine and was one of Russell's main scoring outlets.
"She's had some games where she's scored as many points, but her rebounding, defense and offense, all three put together, were probably her best of the year," he said.
With Russell shadowing Ruder, other TMP players had to step up.
Senior guard Allison Pfeifer scored 12 points, and Schuckman added nine points and eight rebounds. Sophomore forward Kaylor Gottschalk scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting.
"They were really pressuring Heather," Pfeifer said. "I think we did a good job in the second half of having other people step up. That's what we needed to do."
TMP's season is over, but Russell is one game closer to its ultimate goal: a state appearance.
It's something Beagley hasn't yet experienced, despite helping turn around the program with Frank Schulte the past four seasons.
Russell has improved from a 7-14 record Beagley's freshman year, to 14-8 to 15-7 to 16-5 this season and a No. 1 seed at the sub-state tournament.
Russell will play Hoisington (11-10) at 7 p.m. tonight at Norton.
"Our first year, we knew it probably wasn't going to happen, but the main goal was just to get better and push toward that goal," Beagley said.
"Every year since then, we've been so close. It's my last year, and it's in reach. We are just going for it."