Judge by the first 4 minutes of Thursday’s opener and it might be a long year under first-year head coach Bill Meagher for the Thomas More Prep-Marian’ boys’ basketball team.
Fortunately for the Monarchs, there were 28 more minutes to play.
It might not have been the best start, the coach said, but what he saw the rest of the way in a 67-48 loss to Class 6A Manhattan helped the coach figure out what kind of team he’s going to have.
After falling in an 11-0 hole with three turnovers to start the season, the Monarchs eventually battled twice to make it back to single figures.
“I think we just weren’t ready for varsity basketball,” Meagher said of his fresh-faced Monarch club, a program now in its first year after 33 years under former coach Joe Hertel. “As much as you want to explain it to them, you can’t until they experience it.
“(Manhattan) came out fired up and we just weren’t as fired up.”
The Monarchs didn’t score until there were 4 minutes left in the opening quarter when Jackson Schulte, a sophomore, broke the drought by hitting the second of two free throw attempts.
TMP trailed 17-7 after one quarter but eventually started chipping away with senior Ryan Karlin and junior Ryan Stoecklein catching some fire. The Monarchs outscored Manhattan 18-16 in the second period, and Stoeckelin proved a catalyst late in the quarter, hitting two 3-pointers to spur a late 8-0 run, helping TMP narrow it to eight points by halftime.
“We matched their intensity for a while (after the rough start),” Meagher said. “I felt like we played just as hard as they did.”
Stoecklein’s late 3s were part of his game-high 13 points. He also hit one from long range in the third quarter.
“He’s a shooter. He loves to shoot,” Meagher said. “But I am more impressed with him on defense. To stay on the floor, he’s got to guard. But he absolutely can score. He did a great job tonight.”
The Monarchs, though, figured out they would have to go to 6-foot-7 big man Jared Mayers to have a chance. One of only two players — along with Karlin — to see any considerable time on last year’s 3A state tournament team, Mayers had four of his 13 points in the third quarter.
TMP (0-1) would close to within seven points in the third, but a 14-3 run by the Indians helped thwart off the comeback attempt.
By the 3:16 mark fo the fourth, Manhattan — led by 12 points for senior Lawson Monaco — had its biggest lead of the contest at 62-41.
Despite the lopsided loss, Meagher said, he learned some things in his first outing after several years as an assistant.
“We want to be tough, hard-nosed relentless defenders,” he said. “We just want to continue to attack.”
That worked slightly against the Monarchs on Thursday, especially late in the third.
“I think we actually got ourselves a little bit tired,” Meagher said. “We’re going to get in good condition and be able to do that.”
If Thursday’s game was any indication, the Monarchs could rely heavily on Karlin and Mayers. Karlin played the role of the floor general to finish with nine points.
TMP moves into the consolation bracket in a 5:15 p.m. game Friday against St. Thomas Aquinas, which fell 51-47 to Milwood in early action at Hays High School.
Manhattan boys 67, TMP 48
Manhattan (1-0) 17 16 19 15 — 67
TMP (0-1) 7 18 14 9 — 48
M — Monaco 12, Riddick 10, Stewart 2, Braxmeyer 10, Williams 6, Munsen 1, Barren 5, Hosver 8, Higgins 3, Marks 10.
T — Stoecklein 13, Jacobs 2, Schulte 5, Kreutzer 2, Karlin 9, Johnson 4, Mayers 13.