New-look Monarch girls fall in opener

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Thursday was all about adaptation, said senior Thomas More Prep-Marian guard Annie Mindrup.

The TMP girls' basketball team (0-1) showcased a much different look than previous Monarch teams, as the Monarchs lost 47-36 against Kearney, Neb., in the first round of the Hays City Shoot-Out on Thursday evening at the Hays Middle School gym.

Longtime head coach Alan Billinger, now retired, was no longer standing next to the Monarchs' bench. Instead, head coach Rose McFarland led the Monarchs into battle. Playmakers such as Rachel Jacobs and Jenna Lang had graduated, leaving former bench players and newcomers to pick up the slack.

"I think we came together really well," Mindrup said. "It was really hard for us seniors, because it's so different from last year, but I think we adapted really well."

Mindrup, who shot 17 percent in limited playing time last season, had a hot hand Thursday, making 5 of 7 shots and 2 of 3 from 3-point range for 12 points. She also tied for the team lead with six rebounds.

"Annie had a nice game," McFarland said. "She did a lot of nice things, but she really hustled, too. I thought the whole team did."

TMP senior point guard Heather Ruder also reached double figures, scoring 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting. Senior forward Jenna Schuckman also grabbed six rebounds.

Mindrup said this game should help the team adjust. For example, she said McFarland runs more set plays than Billinger did.

"We usually just ad libbed," she said.

Not only that, but she said with a whole new group of players, it could take some time to develop chemistry.

"This game helps us so much clicking," Mindrup said.

TMP kept pace with Kearney early.

The Monarchs even took a 7-point lead late in the second quarter, but Kearney battled back, taking advantage of TMP turnovers and sinking 3-pointers to take a 39-25 lead by the end of the third quarter.

The Monarchs battled back in the fourth, but the hole Kearney dug with its nine-minute, 27-6 run was too much to overcome.

"I think our defense kind of fell apart, because they started hitting 3s and we started getting frazzled," Mindrup said. "We hustled a lot in the fourth and came back in the fourth a little bit."

The Monarchs outrebounded Kearney 28 to 25, but TMP committed 17 turnovers to Kearney's 11.

"The turnovers were kind of the difference there," McFarland said.

TMP also struggled against Kearney's zone.

After Mindrup scored 9 points on 4 of 4 shooting in the first half, she received double teams throughout the second half, and the rest of TMP's offense was slow to adapt.

"We didn't execute our offense very well out of the zone," McFarland said. "We had some turnovers out of it, and we just didn't get very good looks."

Kearney senior guard Gretchen Mak was electric from long range, making 5 of 7 shots for 13 points, which include 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. Senior Kelsey Wiemers and sophomore Kelsey Stithem each added 11 points for the Bearcats.

TMP now must battle its way through the consolation bracket, but McFarland said the experience should help.

"Every game, every outing, every practice, we want to get better and keep improving throughout the year," she said.