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Effort for Monarch girls comes up short

By TYLER PARKS

sports@dailynews.net

The Thomas More-Marian High School girls' basketball team continued their tough schedule Tuesday with another difficult test from Abilene.

TMP was 1-6 after picking up its first win just before the holiday break.

"Over Christmas break we focused on our own execution instead of focusing on the other teams," TMP head coach Rose McFarland said.

The TMP girls fell short, losing 45-38 in a strong effort that came down to the final possessions of the game. TMP battled back at several points in the game a made it a closer game than the final scored indicates.

Abilene (7-1) had a strong showing from the free throw line all night and added four free throws late in the game to seal the victory.

Abilene shot 13 of 16 from the free throw line on the night, while TMP (1-7) made 3 of 8.

"In addition to the rebounding, free throws played a big part in this game. Every time they were at the line they made them," McFarland said.

Abilene shot 8 of 8 in the first half, while TMP made 1 of 6 in the first half, and Abilene led 22-17 at half.

After a slow first half, senior guard Heather Ruder caught fire at the beginning of the second half scoring five quick points and cutting the lead to three early in the third.

A 16-point third quarter for TMP cut the lead to three and put the Monarchs right back in it.

"They got a little run on us in the second quarter, but we battled back and had a good third quarter," McFarland said.

TMP's 1-3-1 zone kept Abilene's post players out of the equation for most of the first half, but that proved more difficult in the second half for the Monarchs as Abilene's post players added 10 points in the third quarter.

"Early in the game defensively they were playing a man and weren't letting us reverse the ball, so we didn't do well on the offensive end early, but the second half we were able to come out and execute our offense better and get on a run in the third," McFarland said.

But a 3-point buzzer beater to end the third by Abilene senior guard Kiley Crider sparked an 8-0 Abilene run that extended into the fourth quarter and put the Cowgirls up 41-33.

TMP fought back again before a Ruder three with 3:21 in the fourth cut the lead to three and forced Abilene to call a time out to regroup and fall back and manage the clock.

Ruder finished with a team-high 16 points, right with her season average.

TMP was down three and forced to foul at the end of the game, sending Abilene to the free throw line. The Cowgirls made 4 of 5 at the line to put Abilene out of reach.

Offensive rebounding gave Abilene plenty of second chance scoring opportunities, as TMP was physically outmatched in the low post.

"We were outsized, but we still have to do our job and box out. I thought defensively we played pretty good, we were playing zone we just needed to get a few more of those rebounds. I thought the difference in the game was the rebounding, they sometimes got two or three shots at a time," McFarland said.

Abilene 6-foot freshman Belle Barbieri played a key role, grabbing four offensive rebounds and scoring six of her team-high 13 on second-chance shots.

"At the end we were fouling to try and stop the clock and get the ball back, but they hit their free throws," McFarland said.

Abilene's head coach, Janelle Geist, is a TMP graduate and both she and McFarland played college basketball at St. Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City at different times before its closure in 1992.

While TMP moves to 1-7 on the season, the Monarchs have lost two close games in overtime this year and played schools much bigger, including Great Bend.

"We are playing good competition, it isn't going to get any easier, but we are getting better," McFarland said.

TMP will travel to Russell on Friday for a 6 p.m. start.