It wasn’t the finest effort.
Still, Rose McFarland was happy to walk away with a win against a previously undefeated team.
And in the process, the head coach of the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls’ basketball team watched her squad rattle off its ninth straight victory with a 55-41 win Friday night against Smith Center at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
“I don’t feel that we normally play that way,“ McFarland said. “We played good, and we played hard. Then we kind of relaxed and just went through the motions, and here they came. We weren’t closing out on defense, and our help defense wasn’t very good. And we weren’t getting the rebounds that led to our good offense.”
It was an atypical performance by the Monarchs, but still good enough to notch the 14-point win.
“We kind of played in spurts tonight,” McFarland said. “We kind of moved the ball well, made good reads, and the score went (up). Then we got real stagnant and moved the ball very slow and forced things. That’s just how we played — up and down tonight.”
TMP (9-1 overall, 5-0 MCL) started strong, building a 15-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 32-16 advantage at halftime.
That came against Smith Center’s 3-2 zone defense, something Lady Red head coach Nick Linn said he hasn’t used for more than a decade.
“We normally don’t run a 3-2, and we ran a 3-2 tonight for probably the first time in 15 years,” Linn said. “It takes a toll on people in the middle. We spent two days on it and were fortunate to have two days of practice to work on it. I thought our girls did a good job. But TMP is good. They’re going to take advantage of runs. You have to be solid, or you’re going to be trampled quickly. The big thing about TMP is they thrive on transition baskets, and I thought we minimized that tonight. We played every game this year in a full-court press, and we took it out tonight because I thought it would have been a pretty bad situation for us.”
The Monarchs pushed the lead to 18 early in the third quarter on a basket by senior Kayla Vitztum, who finished with a game-high 20 points, before holding a 41-26 advantage entering the final period.
But Smith Center (8-1, 4-1) pulled within 41-32 with 6:44 remaining after a quick 6-0 spurt.
“We just got real stagnant there in the fourth quarter,” McFarland said. “That’s just the way the game went. But when we needed to, here we go. We worked the ball and got some good looks.”
Vitztum stopped the run with one of two free throws, and junior Emily Schippers followed with a putback. Her block on the defensive end resulted in a layup by senior Savannah Yost for a 46-32 advantage.
“That’s what I told them,” McFarland said. “When everybody is doing their thing, we’re tough to stop. Everybody is looking for their shots, too. But when we’re trying to force it inside or trying to get it to Kayla, the offense doesn’t run as good.”
The margin grew back to 18 before Smith Center, ranked No. 6 in Class 2A in this week’s KBCA poll, pulled within 12 with less than a minute to go.
“The kids aren’t mad. They’re disappointed in the loss, but they’re not mad,” Linn said. “They know that what we did tonight in a loss was better than the last two games that ended in wins.”
Junior Jillian Lowe added 10 points for TMP, ranked No. 6 in Class 3A this week. Sophomore Kendra Maydew (13) and junior Gracen Hutchinson (10) reached double figures for the Lady Red.
“We’re going to have to play better than we have lately,” Linn said. “Coming into tonight, we had a couple games that we really just squeaked by against some teams that are struggling in our league. There are some things that we need to work on, but I have really good kids who work hard in practice. That being said, we’ll plug away. If we’re lucky, hopefully we’ll see them again.”