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Solid road win for TMP boys

By TYLER PARKS

sports@dailynews.net

LARNED -- Many coaches say playing in close ball games is a sign of maturity in a team.

For a youthful Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball team, winning those games is a huge plus.

The Monarchs, who have continued to improve as the season has progressed, grew up more in a 69-63 victory against Larned on Tuesday.

"I really am proud of the kids," Monarch coach Joe Hertel said. "I thought they grew up a lot tonight in terms of maturity."

TMP led by as much as 11 in the third quarter before the Indians (3-12) went on a 4-0 run to end it, and cut the lead to one to start the fourth. The Monarchs (6-9) were not shaken and continued to battle to the end.

"I think we made serious forward strides again tonight by proving we can play in a close game and stave off a team that is making a wild, hot-shooting run and still get a win," Hertel said. "To do that on the road is a bigger feather in your hat."

Senior guard Shane Zimmerman led the Monarchs with 16 points and by refused to let his team get rattled late in the game, Hertel said.

"It always helps when you have a senior leader like Shane Zimmerman out there," he said. "It is cool to see his demeanor on the court and the poise he shows rub off on some of the younger players."

Zimmerman hit eight of his 10 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter. TMP shot 16 of 20 as a team in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

"Shane has been shooting well lately and continued to shoot it pretty nice tonight," Hertel said. "He does so many other things, that even if he wasn't shooting well right now he is still a guy I really don't like taking off the court at all."

It would have been easy for TMP to hang its heads after a technical foul again cut the Monarch lead to one and gave the Indians the ball late in the fourth, but they didn't seem to notice.

The Monarchs finished with 26 points in the final quarter, enough to pull away despite the Indians' lethal perimeter shooting.

"This year is the first year that I have kept points per possession as a statistic. It is a really revealing stat," Hertel said. "On our last 15 possessions we scored, it wasn't always two, but when you can score on every possession down the stretch in a close game, the result is like what happened tonight.

"That is come away on a tough road game with a win like we did tonight," Hertel added.

Larned junior Easton Palmer scored 28 points against the Monarchs, shooting 7 of 15 from the 3-point line. He scored 17 points in the second half alone.

The Monarch's answer to Palmer's 28 point night was four players scoring in double-digits.

"For an offensive minded coach there is no substitute for spreading the ball around and having guys that are confident enough to find a way to get the ball in the hole," Hertel said.

The sophomore tandem of Kameron Schmidt and Cameron Fouts played a pivotal role in the Monarchs' win. Schmidt finished with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Fouts added 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Senior Kade Megaffin also finished in double figures with 11 points and six boards.

"I am most proud tonight of the fact that Kade Megaffin stepped up and gave us a contribution that we had to have to win a ballgame and that has been missing from Kade for a longer part of the season," said Hertel.

"He was the x-factor tonight; he was the difference in the game. He started out poorly, but after that he got things turned around and he made the difference."

TMP gained its first lead two minutes into the first quarter and did not trail at any point after that. Larned battled back at several points in the game.

"Arguably I'd say tonight was our most satisfying win of the year," Hertel said.

TMP travels to Scott City, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A in the most recent coaches poll, on Friday.