The last three seasons, Thomas More Prep-Marian High School girls’ basketball coach knows she had a quality bench player in Aubrey Koenigsman. Part of a program loaded with talent for several seasons, the coach often relied on Koenigsman in pressure situations and big-game moments, though she rarely cracked the top five.
She might be in her first year as a starter in her senior season, but McFarland feels she’s been a starter all along. Her last two outings, and then some this season, just prove why.
The senior guard was on point again Tuesday night as the Monarchs sent Great Bend away from Al Billinger Fieldhouse with a 64-51 loss. While senior Kayla Vitztum hogged the scoring with her somewhat quiet 30 points, it was Koenigsman who fired up the troops in the first half.
“She’s just really become a leader for us,” McFarland said.
For the second straight outing, Koenigsman hit some key outside shots that kind of opened things up as TMP, the No. 2 ranked team in Class 3A, moved to 15-2.
“She’s just playing with more confidence,” McFarland said of the senior. “She’s a good outside shooter and she’s always been the defender that has to play on one of their best players.”
One thing has changed, though. Evident by her outside shooting Tuesday, she is looking to put the ball up more. She was not afraid to pull the trigger Tuesday. Her two first-quarter 3s helped TMP lead 14-3 at one point.
“We came out in the first half, played good defense, and we were all hustling and moving the ball really well,” Koenigsman said.
The senior’s play as of late also has been helped by the emergence this season of junior guards Jillian Lowe and Emily Schippers, along with the play of sophomore guard Adell Riedel.
“We lost a lot of good guards and players all the way around,” Koenigsman said of entering this season. “Everyone has really stepped up this year.”
Lowe added a 3 of her own early as TMP led 16-10 after one, and Schippers had two first-half points.
The Monarchs then turned on the defense — and the scoring. TMP got another 3 from Koenigsman and eight points from Vitztum in the second quarter, and by halftime, TMP led 35-19.
“Our defense played tough tonight,” McFarland said.
That was good to see, the coach added, considering the Monarchs have battled illness the last two weeks. Riedel missed Tuesday’s game, and Vitztum was sick all of last week before playing minimally in Friday’s win at Phillipsburg.
The senior, though, looked back on her game Tuesday, especially in the second half.
“She really gave it everything she had tonight,” McFarland said.
And as good as the guards were in the first half, Vitztum was all that in the second. She scored 10 points in the paint after intermission and was 8-of-8 from the foul line (12-of-12 for the night). Three of those free throws came on old-fashioned three-point plays.
While the game seemed well in hand for TMP, though, Great Bend (3-14) didn’t just lay down. The Panthers got to the foul line often in the fourth quarter, and turned a 19-point into single-digits at one point.
“We kind of got lax on defense,” Koenigsman said. “Toward the end, we picked it up.”
Vitztum finished the game at the free throw line. The senior was 6-of-6 in the final frame, and helped seal the win with Great Bend fouling late.
Koenigsman finished with 11 points, while Schippers played the point for much of the second half and chipped in seven. Lowe also finished with seven.
Great Bend got 13 points from senior Carley Brack.
The Monarchs will be at home Friday for senior night against Stockton at the fieldhouse. Game time is 6 p.m.