By KLINT SPILLER
At the beginning of the season, the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball team was thin at the low post.
Now, with the return of two key seniors, it just might be the Monarchs' position of strength.
Senior forwards Anthony Walters and Ryan Mayorga made their debuts from injuries in the past two games.
Walters had a shoulder injury that was healed from football season, but he reaggravated it during the training for basketball. Mayorga recovered from a knee injury suffered during football.
Walters played Tuesday against Phillipsburg, while Mayorga made his first appearance Friday at Ellinwood.
"It's a real plug to have them back," said TMP head coach Joe Hertel. "We need them. They are another veteran presence on the floor. I think that's worth something and helps my young guys feel more comfortable when they are out there."
Having them back didn't produce wins for TMP (1-4), but their impacts were obvious.
In each of their returns, they had two of the best nights of any TMP player. Walters was second on his team in scoring against Phillipsburg, posting eight points, while Mayorga led the squad with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting against Ellinwood.
Walters, a force at the low post, also has some range. He is one of TMP's more capable 3-point shooters.
"He's kind of a 'tweener," Hertel said.
"He can go outside and knock down some shots, but I still like his toughness around the basket because he is strong and has a demeanor while he's on the floor -- kind of a mean streak while he plays basketball."
Mayorga's 6-foot-3 length is difficult to contend with. Against Ellinwood, he made many of his plays around the rim on putbacks and blocks.
"He was probably the longest kid on the floor tonight, and he made some plays inside.
We need that," Hertel said following TMP's 61-54 loss at Ellinwood.
Before their return, TMP played the Hays City Shoot-Out with little depth at the low post.
Sophomore Cameron Fouts, junior Jordan Gottschalk, sophomore Ryan Schippers and senior Kade Megaffin filled in, but outside of them, TMP had little to offer at the low post.
Now, the Monarchs have six players to rotate in and out.
"I think we can do a lot of different things with a handful of people on the low block now," Hertel said.
"That's a nice a advantage to have. A week ago, we were thin down there."
Hertel said they should only get better with more playing time together. Mayorga missed all of the pre-season as well as all of the Monarchs' practices until last week, while Walters missed more of the practices as well.
With more time, the team's chemistry should improve, Hertel said.
TMP will see how much more improved they can be with more time together Tuesday at Victoria (3-1).
"I can't help but think more action together and intermingling with their teammates is only going to make them better," Hertel said.