In a head coaching career now trucking its way through a third decade, Thomas More Prep-Marian boys’ basketball coach Joe Hertel never has made a habit of getting ahead of himself.
Friday night, though, he admitted he really hoped what the Monarchs did this week didn’t come back to “bite him in the rear end.”
The Monarchs, the coach said, spent a great deal of time getting ready for Saturday night’s showdown with Salina-Sacred Heart, and abnormally less time focused on Friday’s MCL clash with neighboring Ellis.
It wasn’t as if the Monarchs completely ignored the Railers, however, and the players still delivered a top-notch effort in a 74-38 victory at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
The coach was just thankful with as much time as they spent on Saturday’s opponent, they did enough to grab a win against an undersized Ellis club.
“My guys ran hard tonight, and I’m very pleased for the first game back where we are conditioning-wise,” Hertel said.
That, and the Monarchs (5-2) used a distinct size advantage inside with the likes of 6-foot-4 senior Michael Lager and 6-2 senior Creighton Renz. The two combined for 30 points in the blowout. Renz had the hot hand with eight points in the first quarter and Lager got hot in the third. After narrowing an early gap to 19-13, Ellis never got any closer as the Monarchs seized control in the second quarter.
“Ellis has some nice kids, but they really are imbalanced, position-wise,” Hertel said.
Six-foot-3 senior Geoffrey Soneson was the Railers’ biggest player Friday.
The start was a little rough for the Monarchs, but once they got going in transition, things were sailing pretty smoothly. Having senior guard David McFarland step up to hit a pair of second-quarter 3-pointers helped that fact as TMP led 42-20 by halftime.
“They did a couple things a little bit different than what we practiced, and it took a little time for us to get coordinated,” Hertel said. “Second and third quarter we not only upped the ante defensively, but the difference was the way we ran the floor.”
The Monarchs also held a 20-board rebounding advantage for the game. McFarland finished with 15 points, Renz with 16 and Lager 14 as the Monarchs reached 74, despite the fact the fourth quarter was played under a running clock. Senior Joseph Eck led Ellis (4-4) with 11 points.
With little turnaround time before Saturday’s game against Sacred Heart — the defending Class 2A state champion — Hertel also was pleased his team got to sit early and was out of the fieldhouse with an early night.
Sacred Heart is 6-2 and ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, coming off last year’s state title thriller against St. John. The state title run included a regular-season 81-66 win against TMP.
This week was the “first time I’ve ever coached my guys a game ahead,” Hertel said. “We know Sacred Heart is the real deal.
“We’ve got chance to have them on our floor, and I think we’re halfway decent, and I think we’ve got a shot.”
TMP girls 52, Ellis 15
In the first game back after a holiday break, TMP girls’ coach Rose McFarland wanted to see her club play some defense.
The Monarchs, ranked No. 6 in Class 3A, stifled the Railers early and often and rolled to the blowout victory to move to 6-1.
“We played really good defense,” said McFarland, whose club didn’t allow a point in the third quarter. “We were aggressive. We got up and down the floor and we tried to get better in the transition game.”
All those things were accomplished, she said, although the coach admitted it could have been better.
Hard to argue with the result, though.
TMP led 6-2 early, then blew the game open to 15-2 after sophomore Adell Reidel came off the bench to hit a pair of 3-pointers. That sparked TMP’s offensive surge. Senior Kayla Vitztum hit a trey to make it 20-2 and eventually the Monarchs led 32-10 by halftime.
Riedel, a transfer from Trego Community High School, sprained her ankle before the break, and re-injured it during practice. She overcame the downtime through the holiday to score 11 points Friday. Junior Emily Schippers had 14 points to lead the way, and Vitztum also notched 11.
The big story, though, was TMP’s defense. Ellis was held without a point in the third quarter and never made a free throw attempt, then had just five points under a running fourth-quarter clock. Senior Kaylyn Foster led Ellis with six points.
TMP is slated to face Salina-Sacred Heart in a 6 p.m. game Saturday night in a rare back-to-back schedule after the holiday break.