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Despite hot start, TMP girls drop close game

By TYLER PARKS

sports@dailynews.net

The Thomas More Prep-Marian girls' basketball team has made close games a theme for this season. Even after a jumping out to a 21-8 lead after the first quarter Thursday night at Al Billinger Fieldhouse, the Monarchs again found themselves in a close one late.

Another strong fourth-quarter surge, again though, wasn't enough as MCAA foe Hoisington pushed past the Monarchs 50-46.

"We need to learn to get ahead and put teams away," TMP head coach Rose McFarland said. "That first quarter was the biggest quarter we have had all year. We need to play four quarters with the intensity we had at the beginning and the end of the game."

TMP (2-11) looked to stay in the hunt for their 10th straight league title, but might now face an uphill climb to get it done. The Monarch girls won seven straight MSAA titles before the league disbanded and have won the last two MCAA crowns.

TMP fell to 1-2 in league play with the loss and Hoisington improved to 1-2.

Hoisington (6-7) played box and one on defense, with a player shadowing Monarch senior Heather Ruder's every move.

A switch to a traditional zone defense early in first led to two straight Ruder 3-pointers, and the Cardinals quickly switched back.

"We have had people chase Heather before and in the first everyone was getting open looks. Then in the second we just went away from running any kind of offense," McFarland said.

Ruder scored eight of her 16 points in the first quarter making 3-for-3 from the field.

The second quarter was scoreless until a Hoisington basket with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left before half spawned a 9-2 Cardinal run into the break.

The Monarchs continued to struggle in the beginning of the second half. A 9-3 run that included two straight threes by Hoisington senior guard Jordin Greer gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game two minutes in.

Greer finished with 21 points, just above her season average of 19. She also had a team-high seven rebounds.

"We held Greer to only five in the first half, and then she started to penetrate and we didn't step over and help like we needed to," McFarland said. "We forgot to guard her a few times, and when she started scoring, it sparked their whole team."

TMP chipped away at the Cardinal lead throughout the third-quarter leaving the game tied at 35 with a minute remaining.

After an 11-0 run by the Cardinals that stretched into the fourth-quarter, a three by Monarch freshman Melissa Pfeifer sparked another Monarch comeback.

The TMP defense caused five straight turnovers, including two straight Ruder steals leading to fast-break baskets late in the fourth as the Monarchs mounted a 7-0 run, leading to a Hoisington bench technical.

TMP got 1-of-2 free throws on the technical and trailed by three with 1:30 to play.

In addition to Ruder's 16 points, her on-the-ball defense made it near impossible for the Cardinals to set up any kind of offense or bring the ball up safely. Four of her seven steals came in the fourth quarter.

The Cardinal lead went to five on free throws until another three, this time by Allison Pfeifer, put TMP within two with six seconds to play.

The Cardinals hit free throws when they had to, making 5 of 7 in the fourth quarter and sealing the game.

TMP struggled from the free throw line making four of their 12 attempts.

"We fought back again, but 30 percent from the foul line is a killer," McFarland said. "We need to have a better percentage to keep the pressure on."

TMP will continue league play Tuesday when they host Ellinwood (9-4). The league-leading Eagles are 2-0 in MCAA play.