TMP girls pick up MCAA win
By KLINT SPILLER
The way the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls' basketball team played the first three quarters Tuesday, it showed it could play with almost anyone.
But then in the fourth quarter, the Monarchs (3-11, 2-2 MCAA) demonstrated why the team has struggled so mightily in the first part of the season.
TMP dominated league leader Ellinwood (9-5, 2-1 MCAA) for the first three quarters, but then in the fourth, the Monarchs handed the ball back to Ellinwood time and time again, missed free throws and struggled to execute its offense. TMP allowed Ellinwood to go on a 10-0 run with all 10 scored following TMP turnovers.
Fortunately for TMP, the Monarchs had a sizable cushion and still managed to win 54-46.
"I think we got a little stressed and a little frazzled, but it was a good thing we had a good lead," said TMP senior forward Jenna Schuckman.
TMP head coach Rose McFarland said it wasn't a change of plan that caused it. Her team wasn't trying to stall until the final minute.
"A little bit of the fourth quarter, the first part of our season was creeping back," McFarland said. "I think, in their minds, they were just like 'Oh, we don't want to get beat' instead of playing to win. That's what we've got to start doing. We need to be intense like we were the first three quarters the whole game."
In the first contest between the two teams in mid December, Ellinwood couldn't miss. The Eagles made 65 percent from the field and 78 percent from beyond the arc.
TMP's defense made sure that didn't happen again Tuesday.
The Monarchs executed an aggressive man-to-man defense with quick switches and help defense, making it difficult for Ellinwood to get open looks.
"I think, defensively, that was one of our better games all around, because they can score some points," McFarland said. "That team has got shooters -- not just one or two. They've got a good inside game as well."
The first time the two teams faced, TMP needed senior point guard Heather Ruder to score 30 points and make eight 3-pointers to keep the team in the game, but on Tuesday, Ruder got plenty of help from her teammates.
Seven Monarchs scored, and Schuckman tied with Ruder for the team lead in scoring with 17 points.
Senior guard Allison Pfeifer contributed six points, and sophomore forward Kaylor Gottschalk, freshman forward Melissa Pfeifer and junior forward Samantha Younie each added four.
"I think the whole team was working together really well," Schuckman said. "People were getting good passes. It was just awesome."
Sophomore Rachel Doll led Ellinwood in scoring with 14 points, and junior Kelsea Ward posted 10 points and 10 rebounds.
TMP never trailed in the contest, and Ellinwood had the game tied only once -- at 0-0.
Schuckman and Ruder started TMP off strong, combining for 15 of TMP's 19 first-quarter points. In the second quarter, Ruder stretched TMP's lead to double figures, scoring seven points in a row to move the lead to 30-17.
Ellinwood didn't manage to significantly cut into TMP's lead until the fourth quarter. The Eagles' 10-0 run brought the game within six points with 2 minutes, 40 seconds remaining, but Ellinwood didn't score again after that.
It was a good thing for TMP, because the Monarchs managed just two points in the fourth quarter after scoring 19, 18 and 15 points in the first three quarters.
In the fourth, TMP finished 0-for-2 from the field and 2-for-9 from the free throw line and committed six turnovers, with all but one leading to Ellinwood baskets.
"We panicked a little bit in the fourth quarter," McFarland said.
"The pressure was on them, not us, but in the fourth quarter, it looked the other way around."
By knocking off Ellinwood, it kept TMP in the race for the league title despite TMP's slow start to the season. TMP has won nine consecutive league championships, including seven MSAA titles and two MCAA titles.
"We can play with anybody," McFarland said. "In the win-loss record, it hasn't shown that. We are looking forward to the rest of the season. We are getting better."