ABILENE — It had been since the Hays City Shootout that the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls’ basketball team had an opportunity to play an opponent from a larger classification, but that changed Friday night in Abilene.
The Monarchs took full advantage with a 50-38 win in the Cowgirls’ gym.
A number of strong individual performances helped continue a streak following the Monarchs’ Mid-Continent League championship last weekend.
Friday, it was sophomore Kayla Vitztum and junior Katelyn Zimmerman that paced the visitors early. Vitztum scored 10 of the Monarchs’ 15 points in the first quarter with Zimmerman adding the other five and a pair of early steals as the Monarchs’ jumped out to a 15-7 lead, limiting the hosts to three made field goals in the first eight minutes.
To top it off, Abilene senior Belle Barbiere — a Fort Hays State signee and one of the better players the Monarchs have faced, according to TMP coach Rose McFarland — picked up her second foul when Vitztum drew a charge with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
“That was awesome,” McFarland said of her team’s first quarter. “It got us off to a really good start, and Belle had a couple fouls early, so I think that took them out of their game a little bit.”
After the Monarchs found success inside early, the offensive production slowly, but steadily, gravitated to the perimeter, specifically Madyson Koerner.
The junior guard scored all eight on the Monarchs’ points in the second quarter on a pair of 3-pointers and a putback following an offensive rebound. Her offense allowed the Monarchs to take a 223-18 lead into the half, but she was just getting started.
Abilene guard Cara Donley got inside and scored to start the third quarter, bringing the Cowgirls within three points.
Zimmerman and junior guard Megan Koenigsman each scored to push the Monarch advantage to eight. Koerner then added two 3-pointers in as many minutes, pushing the score to 34-22.
“She’s been on fire in certain games, but tonight she was knocking them down one after the other,” Zimmerman said. “It was really good for us.”
Koerner added her fifth 3-pointer later in the quarter that broke up a Cowgirl run and helped TMP take an 11-point lead into the final quarter.
“I thought they were going to guard me a little tighter but I just thought I was hitting them, might as well try to keep going,” she said.
Donley opened the fourth quarter with a three-point play to keep the Cowgirls in contention, but Koenigsman managed the offense well enough to keep the home team from getting back into it.
The point guard slipped a bounce pass to a wide open Zimmerman to bring the Monarch advantage back to double digits.
Later in the quarter, after two more buckets from Koerner, Koenigsman sliced through the Abilene defense and dropped a pass off to a wide open Vitztum. The sophomore forward converted and put TMP up 49-35 with 2:26 to play.
Senior Melissa Pfeifer capped the scoring with a free throw in the final minute. It was her only point of the game, but McFarland credited the wing player for tough defense.
“I thought our defense really played well,” McFarland said. “We had some tough assignments there.”
Donley led the Cowgirls with 15 points, while Barbieri added 12. They were the only Abilene players to score more than seven points despite being the focus of the TMP defense.
“I thought we really knew where they were at all the time and helped on them,” McFarland said.
Koerner led all scorers with 21 points in the final three quarters, while Vitztum and Zimmerman added 15 and nine, respectively.
According to McFarland, Friday’s game was the first time the Monarchs were tested for a full game since winter break. She left the game feeling like her team could be in better condition, as most of the Cowgirls’ runs came when they sped the game up and got out in transition, but that was about the coach’s only complaint.
The Monarchs return to action Friday at Norton. TMP should enter that game with some confidence after knocking off the Cowgirls, who were ranked in 4A-I.
“It’s really big because the other teams we’ve played, they’ve been good, but they’ve been smaller,” Koerner said. “Now we know we can compete with a big school. I’m really excited to see where our team goes from here.”
Abilene boys 66, TMP 52
The TMP boys came up short in making it a Monarch sweep Friday night in Abilene, falling to the host Cowboys 66-52.
Joe Hertel’s Monarchs were within a point late in the third quarter, but the TMP offense failed to make key plays when presented the chance.
“I felt like we had several really pretty easy opportunities in that time Abilene spread it out, but we just didn’t make plays,” Hertel said.
The Cowboys stretched their lead to seven in the opening 30 seconds of the second half, but Chase Romme, Peyton Hoffman and Jared Schumacher contributed buckets in a 6-0 run that brought the Monarchs within one just minutes into the third. TMP kept it a one-possession game until Abilene’s 6-foot-8 center Eric Harms put the Cowboys up five with a minute left in the fourth.
Ryan Wilson and Harley Hazlett added to the Abilene advantage to open the fourth quarter, and the Monarchs never got back within a possession. The Cowboys extended their lead with a strong display from the free throw line in the final quarter.
Harms led all scorers with 20 points. His night was highlighted by a pair of dunks, one in the first quarter to ignite the home crowd and a second in the final two minutes to put the nail in the TMP coffin.
TMP left its usual man-to-man defense in hopes of slowing Harms and the Cowboys’ other offensive weapons. In whole, Hertel was pleased with the defensive effort although there were some lapses early.
“I was proud of my kids’ effort, especially in the first half,” Hertel said. “I thought we made four or five really weak defensive errors in the first half. If not for that, I think we take into halftime a lead.”
TMP held a lead in the opening minutes, but after Harms tied the game at six with 5:32 left in the first quarter, the Cowboys never trailed again. Abilene’s Andrew Schwarting made a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, as the hosts jumped out to a 21-14 lead. The Monarchs narrowly won the second quarter 14-12, allowing them to get into the locker room trailing by five.
Peyton Hoffman led the Monarchs with 18 points, while Chase Romme added 12. Most of their success came on strong drives into the teeth of the Abilene defense.
“I thought both (Chase) and Peyton were really aggressive to the rim. I felt like that’s what we needed to be to have success against Abilene because they’re so long. My hats off to those two because they continued to take it in there among the trees and try to make something happen.”
Senior forward Jared Vitztum was the third Monarch in double figures with 11.
In addition to Harms, Ryan Wilson added 18 and Schwarting notched 12.
The Monarchs return to action on Friday at Norton, a repeat of last week’s Mid-Continent League Championship game.
Thomas More Prep-Marian 50, Abilene 38
TMP 15 8 16 11 — 50
Abilene 7 11 10 10 — 38
TMP — Vitztum 14, Zimmerman 9, Koerner 21, M. Koenigsman 5, Pfeifer 1.
Abilene — Barbieri 12, Donley 15, Gassmam 7, Funston 3, Schwarting 1.
Abilene 66, Thomas More Prep-Marian 52
TMP 14 14 12 12 — 52
Abilene 21 12 12 21 — 66
TMP — Flax 2, Romme 12, Vitztum 11, Ruder 6, Hoffman 18, Schumacher 3.
Abilene — Wilson 18, Harms 20, Schwarting 12, Willey 6, Ford 4, Hazlett 6.