Jillian Lowe was second guessing herself as her game-deciding 3-point attempt was in the air.
With the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls trailing WaKeeney-Trego by two points in the closing seconds of Tuesday night's pivotal Mid-Continent League matchup, Lowe hoisted up a shot from the top of the key.
Just as the ball left her hands, she noticed a Monarch open by the basket.
“I saw my teammate jumping down there,” Lowe said. “Mid-air, I like was like, 'Oh shoot, I should’ve passed it. ' "
It ended up being a better decision to let it fly.
The senior guard drained the shot just before time expired, sending the Monarchs to a thrilling 44-43 victory over previously unbeaten Trego at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
“I thought it was going short,” Lowe said. “I didn’t think it was going to make it.”
TMP, which had trailed the entire second half until Lowe’s shot, cut Trego’s lead to 43-41 with 40 seconds left on a bucket from Adell Riedel.
The Monarchs (6-3, 4-0 MCL) would then force two tie ups, getting the ball on the possession arrow with 16.2 seconds left.
The decisive 3 came off a play that the Monarchs had just installed over the holiday break. Lowe came off a double screen and took a pass from junior Riedel before quickly firing the 3.
“She came up, turned, shot with confidence and knocked it down,” TMP coach Rose McFarland said.
Trego attempted to inbound the ball after Lowe's shot but the last couple seconds ticked off before Trego could get a desperation heave off.
The Eagles, ranked No. 4 in 2A in the Best of Kansas Preps rankings, led 16-15 at halftime before taking control in the third quarter, taking a 28-20 lead after five straight points from Libby Frost.
Trego managed to keep the Monarchs at bay for most of the final frame but the Eagles were held scoreless for the last three minutes of the game as TMP closed on a 7-0 run.
“I think we just stayed cool and played our game,” Lowe said. “We were passing better than we were before. We played good defense. We stayed calm, which really helped.”
Frost finished with a perfect shooting night, going 6 of 6 from the field and 6 of 6 the foul line for a game-high 19 points for the Eagles, who dropped to 7-1.
“They’re one of the top teams in our league,” McFarland said. “They’re young, they’re aggressive, they’re physical so we knew we had to come out strong. I thought we started the game strong and then we just started missing shot after shot and then we started having turnovers; they were sometimes unforced turnovers and that gave them the opportunity to get back in the game and take the lead.
"I’m just happy that we were able to come back. The girls didn't quit. They kept fighting. They picked up the intensity and hit a couple shots down the stretch.”
Senior Emily Schippers led TMP with 12 points while Lowe added 11 for the Monarchs, who notched their 39th straight MCL win.
McFarland said Tuesday's game should play dividends in the long run for both teams.
“The past several years we’ve had a lot of blowout games,” McFarland said. “This will help prepare us for games down the stretch, too. We need this. We need this challenge.
“It was a really good game for us, win or lose, and probably for (Trego) too, I think.”
TMP boys bounce back
Coming off back-to-back losses, the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys came storming out of the gate with a huge first quarter against Trego, outscoring the Eagles 18-2 in the first frame.
The Monarchs weren’t quite able to sustain that dominance but still managed to grind out a 49-38 win for a bounce-back win.
Trego survived the first quarter onslaught to hang around for most of the game but the Eagles couldn’t draw closer than six in the fourth quarter.
“We got that hot start, but we knew that Trego wasn’t going to stay down, ” TMP coach Bill Meagher said. “They’re so well-coached (Sean Dreiling) and they play so hard that they were going to make a run and fight their way back in. We were just excited to get out there right away and get a nice lead.”
TMP (5-4, 3-1 MCL) led by 10 heading into the fourth before going without a field goal in the final frame. But the Monarchs made 9 of 13 attempts from the foul line to keep a cushion against Trego (5-3, 1-2 MCL).
While the Monarchs still had trouble getting in sync offensively, Meagher said TMP made it up for it with high energy, shaking off last weekend’s road losses to Ellis and Sacred Heart.
“That was the major goal of tonight: we had to get the energy level going,” Meagher said. “The (Sacred Heart) game, the energy level was just not very good and we just can’t win games doing that. We were very excited with their energy level tonight.”
The Monarchs fed off senior guard Ryan Karlin, who scored a game-high 19 points.
“Ryan just has one speed and it’s fast,” Meagher said. “When he plays that hard, everybody else on the floor elevates their level as well.
“I just thought that when we looked out there, many times we saw five guys playing as hard as they could. Now, we’re out of control, and we’ve got to rein that in a little bit. … But I told the guys in the locker room, ‘I could not fault your effort.’ ”
Six-foot-7 senior Jared Mayers joined Karlin in double figures with 11 points. He had the highlight of the game, throwing down a one-handed dunk off a drive in the third quarter.
“I wanted to go out on their floor and give him a big hug,” Meagher said. “We’ve been waiting for him to square up and just lift his guy and go to the rim. It happened right there. We need to see more of that as we go forward. But I could see a lightbulb go off in his head. It was like, ‘Ok, I can do this.' When Mayers is going to the rim, he can be a very impactful player for us.”
Trego was led by Kobi Shubert’s nine points.
The TMP girls and boys will play at Smith Center on Friday.