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Turnovers hurt TMP in season-opening loss

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

It wasn't pretty, but at least for Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball coach Joe Hertel, the Monarchs looked better at the end of the night than at the beginning.

TMP turned the ball over 37 times and fell 83-44 in the first round of the Hays City Shoot-Out to Kearney, Neb., on Thursday evening at the Hays Middle School gym.

"Even as the score continued to spread, I felt like we did some things better later," Hertel said. "Granted, they took some pressure off us, but I still felt like we did a few things. As poorly as we handled the ball, we still scored 40-plus. I think that shows promise."

The Monarchs struggled early and often to break Kearney's 2-2-1 zone press, committing 16 turnovers in the first quarter alone.

However, as the night progressed, TMP seemed to maneuver better against the press, committing fewer and fewer turnovers with nine in the second quarter, six in the third and six in the fourth.

"It took time. It took all the timeouts I got," Hertel said.

TMP, which returned no starters and only a few players who had seen varsity time last season, utilized a lineup filled with inexperienced upperclassmen and first-time playing sophomores.

In fact, some of the Monarchs' top performances were made by sophomores.

Sophomore forward Cameron Fouts led TMP with 14 points, shooting 4 of 6 and going 6 of 9 from the foul line.

Sophomore guard Max Megaffin added 8 points off the bench, and sophomore center Jordan Gottschalk grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"I think they are going to be OK," Hertel said regarding his underclassmen. "It is just going to take time."

As far as upperclassmen, senior point guard Shane Zimmerman had the best night, scoring 6 points in limited playing time due to foul trouble. He picked up his third foul late in the first quarter.

Though it might not have looked like it, Kearney head coach Scott Steinbrook said his team is in a similar position to TMP.

Kearney didn't have a single senior, utilizing a lineup of sophomores and juniors. Steinbrook said the Bearcats returned just one player who saw significant minutes on varsity last season.

However, Kearney's inexperience might mean something different than inexperience at a much smaller school. Kearney's enrollment is 4.5 times the enrollment of TMP.

"We are a larger school," Steinbrook said. "... These guys, even playing at the junior varsity level and playing in some summer leagues, they get to play against some of the metro teams from Omaha and Lincoln."

Steinbrook said his team is going to try and use the 2-2-1 zone press often since a half-court game doesn't lend well to his squad, whose tallest player stood at 6-foot-2.

"We wanted to play at that tempo and that pace," he said. "Now, this is our first game out. The kids have fresh legs. It is going to be a real challenge to see if they can maintain through Friday and Saturday of this tournament."

It worked well against TMP. Kearney rarely needed to even enter its half-court offense as they sprinted past TMP's guards to score open lay ups following turnovers.

"We never really set a goal quite like that," Steinbrook said regarding TMP's high volume of turnovers. "I knew we had a lot, but it's a credit to our kids. They played with that relentless mentality on defense."

Late in the game, TMP seemed to figure out the press.

For instance, on one play late in the third, Zimmerman executed a long pass to Fouts, who was open against the back portion of the press and then scored in the paint.

"We just had to weather the storm and take the beating," Hertel said. "Hopefully, we are better now because of that experience."