Good teams can take advantage of nearly every opportunity.
In a span of roughly five seconds, the St. Thomas Aquinas girls’ basketball team did just that Thursday night in the first round of the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout.
The Saints took advantage of a turnover by Thomas More Prep-Marian as the Monarchs were holding for a last-second shot in the third quarter, then got an off-balanced bank shot to fall to grab a four-point advantage en route to a 43-30 win at the Hays Middle School gym.
“Our goal was to come out and show no fear and come out and just play our game,” said TMP coach Rose McFarland. “That’s what we did. So I’m really proud of how we played. It just shows that we have a good group and they’re working hard and together. I’m looking forward to the season.”
The Monarchs (0-1) fell behind early, only to finally find their stride offensively to close the first quarter trailing 10-6. At halftime, TMP trailed 21-16.
But late in the third quarter, the Monarchs chose to hold the ball for more than a minute to take the last-second shot while trailing 27-25.
Aquinas (1-0) forced a turnover with a few seconds remaining, and senior Grace Jacobs raced to the other end. Her shot banked off the glass and through the rim for a 29-25 advantage entering the final period.
The Saints scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to provide some distance.
“We were just trying to take that last shot,” McFarland said. “I’ll take the blame for that. We held it instead of running our offense. We still wanted to take the last shot, but they got the turnover and then the girl makes that shot. That’s what we wanted to prevent was them having a chance to take the last shot. It backfired on us.”
The Saints, who won the last two titles in Class 5A, pushed the lead out to 16 points before the buzzer finally sounded.
“They are a really talented team,” said TMP senior Kayla Vitztum. “They’ve won (5A) state the past few years and been there like 22 years in a row. They’re a really talented team. Honestly, I’m glad we got to play such a good team first because it kind of shows us what we have when we go against those really challenging teams.”
Vitztum led the Monarchs offensively, finishing with 17 points as Aquinas had to answer for her.
“Our offense wasn’t doing any movement, so we tried a new set and ran it and it worked,” Vitztum said about the Monarchs overcoming an early hole. “We kept running it and mixing it up.”
Her two free throws tied the game at 25-25 with 1:58 to play in the third quarter before the Monarchs allowed a bucket 20 seconds later to trail 27-25 as TMP tried to hold the ball for the final shot of the period.
“We were in the game all the way until the last few minutes,” McFarland said. “The girls, I was really proud of them, thought they played really good defense. My concern going in was how our rebounding would be because of the size they had on us. But I thought we really did a good job boxing out and grabbing the boards. Defensively, I thought we did really well. I think the difference was they hit some 3s and ours weren’t going in. They got a couple layups on us. We were coming down on a chance for a fastbreak, and we get a turnover and they take it the other way. Little things like that cost us. But we can live with that.”
Aquinas was paced by sophomore Molly Hartnett, who finished with 14 points and was the only Saint to hit double figures. TMP limited 6-foot junior Alayna Townsell and 6-2 senior Allison Thomas to a combined 12 points.
“I think we worked hard in our zone defense,” Vitztum said. “We were working really well with movement. Finding someone to box out was a big difference for us. We were really trying to find someone to box out.”
TMP will play William Chrisman (1-2) in a consolation semifinal at 3 p.m. today at HMS. Manhattan (1-0) beat William Chrisman 59-37 in other first-round action.
St. Thomas Aquinas boys 65, TMP 38
The Saints (1-0) jumped on top early thanks to a full-court press and had the Monarchs (0-1) trying to rally the rest of the way.
Aquinas led 21-8 after the first quarter and 40-16 at halftime. TMP outscored the Saints 10-5 in the third quarter. It was the closest the Monarchs would come the rest of the way.
Senior Trenton Mayo led the Monarchs with 10 points and was the only player to score in double figures for TMP.
The Saints, who lost in the first round of 5A state last year to the eventual champ, were led by junior guard Drew Nubaum’s 16 points and junior Joe Rost’s 10.
TMP will play William Chrisman (0-3) in a 4:45 p.m. consolation semifinal today at HMS. Manhattan (1-0) held off William Chrisman 63-55 in other first-round action.