By AUSTIN COLBERT
HILL CITY -- Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball coach Joe Hertel tried to prepare the Monarchs for their first true road game Friday at Hill City High School. He tried to get them to understand the difficulties of beating a team coached by Keith Riley, a man with more than 600 career wins with the Ringnecks, especially on their home court.
TMP finally got the message, but it came after its 49-47 loss to Hill City in its Mid-Continent League debut.
"I know the kids think I sermonize, but they got to give the old guy credit sometimes. I just begged them daily this past week to try to understand the thousand additional adversities there are to playing on the road," Hertel said. "Not only that, but playing a program that is renowned for solid play and they won't beat themselves and they are going to be in every game because of the man that is sitting on the bench. I really think we came up here taking it lightly and thinking, 'Wow, this is going to be easy in the MCL,' and now we are down 0-1."
TMP (1-3 overall, 0-1 MCL) seemed to have a decisive size and length advantage, especially on the perimeter. While Hill City's starting guards all hovered in the 5-foot-6 to 5-8 range, the Monarchs had the 6-1 Kameron Schmidt, 6-2 Peyton Hoffman and 6-5 Jared Vitztum, among others.
But as difficult as TMP's size made it for Hill City (1-1, 1-1), the Ringnecks found a way to stay close all game and capitalized late when they had the opportunity.
"We didn't execute our offense worth a dang, but TMP is hard to play against because they are so athletic and they are so long. When you are that long and you are that athletic you can cause a lot of problems defensively, and they caused us all sorts of problems," Riley said. "I got to give a lot of credit to the kids coming off the bench tonight because they came in and did what they were supposed to do. Those kids did a great job or we wouldn't have a chance to win the ball game."
TMP had a complete mismatch with Vitztum, the junior's length allowing him to effectively do whatever he wanted in the first half. He scored six points in the first quarter, which ended with a 16-13 Monarch lead, and eight more in the second quarter to reach 14 by halftime.
TMP's largest lead of the first half, and the game, came at 33-23 with 1:47 until the break after five straight points from 6-1 senior Ryan Schippers. But back-to-back buckets by Hill City's 6-3 sophomore big man Claiborne Kyles made it just 33-27 TMP after two quarters.
"I thought our defense was decent in the first half. It was called pretty close, so we had to adjust," Hertel said. "I felt like we did that. But in the second half defense went away, too, and that's what gives us a chance to win when we can't get it to go in. Even that let us down down the stretch tonight. It was just -- wow -- a hard one to swallow."
The team swapped baskets for the first couple of minutes in the second half, a transition layup by Schmidt giving TMP a 37-31 lead. It was nearly six minutes of game time until the Monarchs scored again, however, a 7-0 run to end the third quarter and additional free throw to open the fourth allowing Hill City to take a 39-37 lead, its first since the score was 3-1.
Tied at 47 with 1:14 to play following a timeout, Hill City allowed nearly a minute to run off the clock before the 5-10 senior Kyle Pfeifer was fouled with 15.9 seconds remaining. He made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Ringnecks the 48-47 lead.
TMP's plan was simple after that -- get the ball to Vitztum and have him attack Hill City's 6-1 senior Deric McKeever, who had four fouls. But the plan never came to fruition, as the ball was mishandled, and turned over to Hill City before Vitztum ever touched it.
"We make an ill-advised dribble drive at that point and don't even get a touch. It was frustrating all the way around," Hertel said of the final full possession. "This was one of those games that was ragged, ugly, unemotional, unenthusiastic on our part from the very beginning. Offense was just so hard. I've got guys that can score the ball any given day ... it was just tough. It was like getting my teeth pulled with no Novocaine."
Hill City's Zechariah Wilson made 1 of 2 free throws at the other end and upon calling a timeout on the rebound TMP was left with 0.1 seconds to play with the ball down 49-47, the entire court in front of them. With a seemingly impossible task, Schmidt's heave to Vitztum around the Monarchs' free-throw line proved to be a respectable attempt, Vitztum's tip directing toward the backboard but it never had a real chance to go in as time expired.
Vitztum finished with 18 points to lead TMP, Schippers' nine points next best. Kyles had 20 to lead Hill City.
"Our guards play really hard, and so do our big guys. We got a long way to go and I'm sure (Hertel is) thinking the same thing with his kids," Riley said. "Both teams are going to get a heck of a lot better. I'd hate to play TMP late in the year. They are going to be really, really good."
TMP still has two more games before going on break. The Monarchs will play at Victoria on Tuesday and finish December play at home against Oakley on Friday.
TMP girls 47, Hill City 35
The TMP girls' basketball team was finding early success inside against Hill City on Friday, 5-foot-10 junior Kelsie DeWitt and 5-10 senior Kaylor Gottschalk overpowering the Ringnecks' interior players.
Then, for whatever reason, TMP developed second thoughts about its game plan.
"They had that extended zone and we were open inside, but we hesitated to pass it," TMP coach Rose McFarland said. "By the time we thought about it they were already shifted on defense."
This led to a long drought for the Monarchs, but they were still able to overcome the slump in a 47-35 win over Hill City (0-2 overall, 0-2 MCL) in their Mid-Continent League opener. TMP (3-1, 1-0) led 21-8 midway through the second quarter only to have the offense go dormant for nearly nine minutes, its next basket not coming until a Gottschalk score made it 23-17 TMP with 3:13 to play in the third.
"The drought started in the second quarter. I think we got to 21 and we just stalled out there," McFarland said. "Couldn't hit a shot and they hit a few, and pretty soon they are right back in it. Just came out the second half flat again. It seems like when they kind of got close then we answered a few times and spread that lead out again."
The Monarchs got things rolling from there, taking a 27-19 lead into the fourth quarter. An 8-0 run midway through the final period broke the doors open, TMP taking its largest lead of the game at 40-26 with 3:30 to play. Sophomore guard Megan Koenigsman did most of the damage, as she finished with 15 points, including nine in the fourth quarter.
"She did a good job. Just keeps shooting because they are going to fall," McFarland said of Koenigsman. "In the end there they put her on the ball and I felt pretty comfortable with her on the line. She did a lot of good things."
Hill City was led by the junior Lexi McDowell's 15 points.
Hill City 49, TMP 47
TMP (1-3) 16 17 4 10 -- 47
Hill City (1-1) 13 14 11 11 -- 49
TMP -- Jared Vitztum 18, Schippers 9, Schmidt 8, Schumacher 5, Flax 4, Hoffman 2, Fouts 1
HC -- Claiborne Kyles 20, Gansel 8, Colburn 6, McKeever 6, Wilson 4, Buchholz 4, Pfeifer 1
TMP 47, Hill City 35
TMP (3-1) 14 7 6 20 -- 47
Hill City (0-2) 6 5 8 16 -- 35
TMP -- Megan Koenigsman 15, Koerner 7, Zimmerman 7, DeWitt 6, Gottschalk 5, A. Koenigsman 4, Pfeifer 3
HC -- Lexie McDowell 15, Conway 7, Nickelson 7, Keith 6