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TMP girls welcome McFarland back in 2012-13

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Thomas More Prep-Marian girls' basketball coach Rose McFarland isn't afraid to step into the shadow left by former coach Alan Billinger.

In fact, McFarland welcomes the challenge.

After all, she's no stranger to the basketball court -- nor is she a stranger to the tradition of excellence at TMP, having previously coached there for four seasons in the 1990s.

Billinger finished his 11-year career at TMP with a 171-81 record and nine consecutive league titles, as well as a Class 3A state championship in 2010, but McFarland did quite well, too.

She coached the Monarchs from 1991 to 1995, compiled a 72-21 record and led the TMP girls to their first state tournament appearance.

She also has coached at Downs from 1984-86, at Phillipsburg from 1986-91 and at WaKeeney-Trego Community from 2001-06.

"We are planning on carrying on the tradition," McFarland said.

It could be a difficult task considering the Monarchs graduated their top two scorers and rebounders from last season's 19-4 team -- Rachel Jacobs (15.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game) and Jenna Lang (12.3 points and 6.0 rebounds).

TMP senior point guard Heather Ruder is the Monarchs' top returnee. She averaged 12.3 points last season.

"We don't return a lot of scoring other than Heather, so these other girls are going to have to step up," McFarland said. "I think when they get confidence they are going to do fine. They are a good group of gals and have been working really hard."

McFarland said she expects her starting lineup to include Ruder at point, senior Allison Pfeifer at shooting guard, senior Annie Mindrup at small forward and senior Jenna Schuckman and junior Samantha Younie at the two post positions. McFarland said she also expects sophomore Kaylor Gottschalk and freshman Melissa Pfeifer to see plenty of playing time at forward.

But of all those players, no one other than Ruder averaged more than two points per game last season.

With so many inexperienced players on the court, McFarland said she expects to lean on Ruder, especially early in the season.

"She is going to have to be our leader out there," McFarland said.

The Monarchs also don't have much size in the frontcourt this season.

The tallest girls on the team are 5-foot-10, and they are freshmen. In fact, the returning players collected just 34.5 percent of the team's rebounds last season.

"Everyone is going to have to help out there (with rebounding)," McFarland said.

Schuckman, the team's top returning rebounder at 3.6 per game, is listed at just 5-6.

"She's not very tall, but she's strong," McFarland said.

McFarland admitted this season could be a growing experience for everyone involved.

"I think we are going to grow together throughout the year," she said. "I don't know them real well. They don't know me real well. At the start of the season, we are going to figure that out."

The Monarchs begin their season Thursday at the Hays City Shoot-Out against Kearney, Neb. The game is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. at the Hays Middle School gym.

Kearney is a behemoth of a school compared to TMP, boasting 4.5 times the enrollment of TMP, but once again, McFarland isn't shying away from the challenge.

"I like playing good competition," she said. "I think that's the only way we get better."