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TMP girls hang on for win

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

SCOTT CITY -- The Monarchs certainly made it closer than she wanted it, but by the end of the night, Thomas More Prep-Marian girls' basketball coach Rose McFarland was smiling.

TMP weathered the storm in the fourth quarter Friday at Scott City and won 51-49, largely due to making 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute and a half.

"We've been doing a lot of free throws in practice, because our free throw percentage hasn't been what we want it to be," said senior guard Allison Pfeifer. "I think the practice paid off."

TMP improved to 5-11. The Monarchs have won three in a row and four of their past five after starting the season 1-10.

"We have really progressed this year," said McFarland. "The girls are figuring out their roles."

Scott City did its best to remove TMP senior point guard Heather Ruder from the equation.

After Ruder lit Scott City (3-13) up in the first quarter, the Beavers switched to a box-and-one defense, assigning a defender to blanket her at all times.

It somewhat worked. She scored only 10 points in the final three quarters, but when the Monarchs needed her the most, Ruder delivered.

In the final 30 seconds, Ruder got a steal and made 3 of 4 free throws to seal the victory for her squad.

But it wasn't just Ruder, senior forward Jenna Schuckman and Pfeifer also contributed at the end, making two free throws apiece.

Schuckman was second on the team in scoring with 12 points, and Schuckman and Pfeifer each grabbed a team-high six rebounds.

"I think we stepped up as a team," Pfeifer said. "That's something we've had to do lately since people have been guarding Heather more."

Ruder, who finished with a game-high 25 points, made 8 of 19 and 4 of 9 from the 3-point line.

However, even with Ruder constantly covered in the final three quarters, she still found ways to help her teammates when they were in trouble.

On one possession midway through the fourth quarter, Pfeifer brought the ball up the floor and got it stolen in the back court. Ruder sprinted to her aid and stole the ball back to prevent a transition layup.

"I was actually saying, 'Oh, thank you, Heather' in my head, because that would have been bad," Pfeifer said.

Ruder got TMP started off on the right foot, scoring 15 first-quarter points and helped her team lead 20-15 in the first quarter.

Scott City countered in the second quarter and even took the lead for a short time in the second, but TMP responded and led 41-35 at the end of the third.

Early in the fourth quarter, TMP appeared to have the game in hand, leading 44-35 with 6:20 remaining. Then the Monarchs missed 10 straight shots and turned the ball over five times, allowing Scott City to shrink the lead to 44-43.

"We had chance to put them away in the fourth quarter, but we just couldn't close the door on them," McFarland said.

But then they took care of business at the foul line.

"We made free throws," McFarland said. "That's the key at the end of the game. We missed a lot of shots. We had good shots, but they just wouldn't fall."

Scott City was fortunate to even be in the game after committing 34 turnovers, but the Beavers made 20 of 34 shots and 8 of 12 free throws.

Scott City senior forward Janessa Lowenthal dominated in the paint, making 11 of 14 for 24 points.

TMP will play Tuesday at Hoisington with a chance to increase its winning streak to four for the first time since last season.

"I think we are finally gelling as a team," Pfeifer said. "We are getting used to the system finally, and I think basically it is the team chemistry that has really come together for us."