By AUSTIN COLBERT
Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball coach Joe Hertel had two key goals for his players entering Friday's game against visiting Oakley High School. First, he wanted them to play tougher, a characteristic he thought they had been lacking over their 1-4 start. Second, he wanted them to defend their home court.
Check and check.
"We've had some tough losses in the last 10 days. I didn't feel like we gave those games away. I didn't feel like we played terrible in those games, but we just didn't finish. We didn't finish and we had spots in there where I thought we played a little bit soft," Hertel said. "I felt like my guys made a little bit of a statement in terms of trying to reach those two goals of playing tougher and taking playing at home very, very seriously. And of course it wasn't real hard for us to do seeing as how we haven't been here for like 100 years. But I'm proud of the kids' effort. I thought the first half was really special."
TMP, playing in its first game at Al Billinger Fieldhouse since February 2013 after it was deemed off-limits for large crowds prior to the 2013-14 season for not being up to fire code, used a big spurt in the first half to run away from Oakley, 77-40. After losing back-to-back games to Hill City and Victoria, each by two points, Hertel felt it was important for his team to get a statement win heading into the winter break, even if it was against an outmanned Oakley (1-4) team.
"My mantra going into this game was to prove that we were tougher than we had played in those two two-point losses. That's been kind of the song that I've been singing this past week to the players," Hertel said. "And granted I know that Oakley probably isn't going to end up being one of our better opponents, but we needed a game and a performance and track meet like the first half was and I'm really proud of the boys. They deserved to win big today."
The first four-plus minutes of the game gave little indication of a blowout, the teams playing their way to a 9-9 tie. That's when the Monarchs ramped up their pressure defense, and before the Plainsmen knew what had hit them TMP was able to force turnover after turnover and turn them into easy baskets.
TMP led 23-11 after the first quarter, sparked by a 10-0 run, and led 54-23 at halftime, a 15-0 run in the second quarter giving them that separation.
"They were ready to play from the opening tip and they played really, really hard for that first 16 minutes, especially," Hertel said. "I think there was a time ... late first quarter that we were just relentless. And I also think it was about that time that depth began to pay dividends and we continued to run at a very fast pace and I think Oakley, they were fading at that point. Of course then the advantage is in our court and we took full advantage of it."
The Monarchs had one more mini-run in them during the third quarter, a 7-0 spurt, to pull ahead 69-33 heading to the fourth, where a running clock put the game to an early end. Senior Kameron Schmidt led TMP with 22 points -- 16 coming in the first half -- while junior Jared Vitztum added 13 and senior Cameron Fouts 10.
No player found double digits for Oakley, Keenan Smith's eight points leading the way.
TMP, now 2-4 on the season, will head into its winter break hoping not to lose any of the ground it gained against Oakley. The Monarchs next play at Ellis High School on Jan. 9.
"When you have two really tough losses, nobody pats you on the back. You basically have to drag yourself up by your bootstraps and try again," Hertel said. "I felt like tonight's game, the game itself, went a long way to improving our team conditioning. Of course we know full well we are going to lose that because my guys are going to spend five days eating candy and cookies and all kinds of other real good stuff. But that's a reality for every club in Kansas and so it is what it is."
TMP girls continue to roll, rout Oakley
The idea was to start hot and make sure Oakley knew it never had a chance. The TMP girls' basketball team delivered that message by scoring the first 15 points of Friday's game en route to a 67-17 thumping of the Lady Plainsmen at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
"I felt like the girls came to play. I know their record isn't really good right now, but we decided we were going to try and jump on them early and not give them a chance to even get in the game," TMP coach Rose McFarland said. "Something I was really pleased with was our transition. We'd get a rebound and girls were out running and filling the lanes and getting up and down the floor."
TMP made everything look easy against Oakley (0-4). The Monarchs led 19-2 after a quarter and 29-6 at halftime, with a 24-0 run straddling the halves making it 50-10 after three quarters. From outstanding defense where multiple turnovers led to easy baskets, solid shooting and terrific passing, TMP did just about everything right on its way to its fifth consecutive win.
Nine different players scored for the Monarchs, three getting to double digits, led by sophomore Megan Koenigsman's season-high 19 points. Junior Melissa Pfeifer and sophomore Madyson Koerner each added 10. Freshman Elise Corbett led Oakley with six points.
"It's fun to have good balance. I feel like a game like this can help some of the girls with confidence," McFarland said. "They are not just looking to score to pass to their teammates and the girls are excited about that. You hustle and you get down the court and someone gives you a nice pass and that's fun."
TMP will take a 5-1 record into break, its only loss in the season opener to Class 6A Garden City High School, 46-38, in the Hays City Shootout. The Monarchs' next game will be in Ellis with the boys' team on Jan. 9.
"I don't know that we really want the break right now ... but it will be nice," McFarland said. "I really like Christmas vacation because we have time to really get better at some of those little things that are our weaknesses and try to make them our strengths."
TMP 77, Oakley 40
Oakley (1-4) 11 12 10 7 -- 40
TMP (2-4) 23 21 15 8 -- 77
Oakley -- Keenan Smith 8, T. Engel 7, Kuhn 4, Zimmerman 4, Kendrick Smith 4, Stewart 4, Gabel 3, Charles 2, Ochs 2, J. Engel 1, Rucker 1
TMP -- Kameron Schmidt 22, Jared Vitztum 13, Cameron Fouts 10, Flax 6, Schippers 5, Romme 5, Hoffman 4, Schumacher 4, Ruder 4, Kazura 4
TMP 67, Oakley 17
Oakley (0-4) 2 4 4 7 -- 17
TMP (5-1) 19 10 21 17 -- 67
Oakley -- Corbett 6, Van Eaton 5, Scheetz 2, Kuhlman 2, Zimmerman 2
TMP -- Megan Koenigsman 19, Melissa Pfeifer 10, Madyson Koerner 10, Zimmerman 9, DeWitt 6, A. Koenigsman 5, Vitztum 4, Wellbrock 2, Gottschalk 2