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Monarch boys struggle in loss to Victoria

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

VICTORIA -- The Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball team's season has been full of offensive lulls.

In the Monarchs' opening game, they became a turnover machine, churning nearly 40 out against Kearney. Then Friday at Ellinwood, they allowed the Eagles to go on a 13-1 run at the end of the first quarter and a 14-4 run at the end of the fourth quarter.

But Tuesday in Victoria, TMP had its worst yet in its 53-38 loss to the Knights (4-1).

The Monarchs (1-5) didn't make a field goal for 14 and a half minutes, stretching from the second quarter all the way to the beginning of the fourth quarter. In that span, TMP committed 20 turnovers. The Monarchs scored just five points off free throws.

"This is not something new for us," said TMP head coach Joe Hertel. "We've seen this happen before. We've talked about avoiding the voids in the game, particularly offensively."

"Today was the void of all voids," Hertel added.

That cold stretch buried the Monarchs after a strong start. TMP actually led 17-12 when the streak started, and by the time it ended, the Monarchs were down 43-25 with 7:32 remaining in the fourth.

"We have to find a way to break the bad spell of getting no loose balls, no offensive rebounds and throwing some really weak, ill-advised passed for turnovers," Hertel said. "All of those things snowballed tonight into a point where the whole third quarter put us so far behind the eight ball that we didn't have a chance no matter what would happen in the fourth quarter."

While the snowball rolled against TMP, Victoria seemed to just get better and better as the Knights adjusted to the Monarchs' aggressive defense.

Juniors Clayton Roth and Sam Ottley led the squad with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

They played instrumental roles in creating Victoria's initial lead.

Down 15-10 in the first quarter, Ottley and Roth combined to score 16 points on a 20-5 Victoria run to close the first half.

"It's a thing where you find a spark, and when you find a spark, you get more intensity and whatnot," Ottley said. "I owe everything I do to my teammates."

During TMP's scoring drought, Victoria stretched its lead more and more, outscoring TMP 13-2 in the third quarter.

It was a team effort for Victoria, as nine Knights scored in the contest.

"I was really tickled pink about how everybody played tonight," said Victoria head coach Stuart Moeckel. "Whether it showed in the stat book or whether it was just being aggressive, I was really happy about that."

TMP couldn't get anything going offensively, shooting 10 of 48 from the field and 2 of 12 from the 3-point line. The only offensive success TMP found was at the free throw line, shooting 16 of 24.

Senior point guard Shane Zimmerman led the squad with nine points, shooting just 1 of 9 from the field but 7 of 8 from the free throw line.

Zimmerman's aggressive play, along with senior Tanner Unrein's, earned the respect of Hertel. Unrein scored just four points on 2-of-8 shooting but was aggressive on offense and defense.

"I hope my other kids are humbled tonight," Hertel said. "They got to watch an inspiring effort (from Zimmerman and Unrein), but they didn't improve their game because of it and that's disappointing to me."

While the Monarchs' offense was bad, Hertel was happy with his team's defensive play. TMP committed 27 turnovers but forced 29.

But as good as the defense plays, it doesn't help if the offense can't hit a shot or create points in some way. TMP is shooting just 30 percent from the field this season.

"I think probably it would be honest to say we are offensively challenged to some degree," Hertel said. "We don't have a lot of real dead-eye shooters. We don't have the big post man inside that is automatic. Our points are going to be hard to come by."

TMP hosts Larned on Tuesday at Al Billinger Fieldhouse. The girls' game begins at 6 p.m with the boys to follow.