The Smith Center girls’ basketball team was on the wrong side of Thomas More Prep-Marian’s best performance of the season Friday night at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
The end result was a 63-29 Monarch victory in both teams’ final game before the Mid-continent League tournament begins on Monday.
“I think by far this was probably one of our better outings for the year, defensively and offensively” TMP coach Rose McFarland said. “Things were clicking on offense. Shots were falling tonight, but I think a lot of that stemmed from our defensive intensity.”
The Monarchs (7-2) intense full-court pressure bothered a Smith Center (4-5) team that struggles to take care of the ball, according to head coach Nick Linn.
“The things we’ve struggled with this year happened again tonight,” the Smith Center coach said. “We struggle from the guard position mightily, so because of that, we have a hard time getting into any offensive rhythm.”
Smith Center got off to a slow start before every possessing the ball. After TMP senior Melissa Pfeifer won the tip, Smith Center defense failed to pick up Madyson Koerner. The junior dribbled in for an open 10-foot jumper that opened the scoring.
A few minutes later, Koerner was found unguarded a second time. She knocked down one of her two 3-pointers in the first half, giving TMP an 11-4 lead and forcing Linn to call for time with 5:30 left in the opening quarter.
Koerner helped the Monarchs open a 10-point lead with a steal that led to a Kelsey DeWitt layup that made it 18-8.
Things managed to get worse for Smith Center before the quarter ended. Sara Mann, a 5-foot-11 junior, was whistled for her third foul late in the first.
Linn said he wouldn’t normally leave a player on the court with two fouls that early but decided it was worth the risk against a deep TMP squad.
“I just decided to let her work its way out, and it didn’t happen that way,” Linn said.
“It probably didn’t matter a whole lot.”
With Mann on the bench in the second quarter, the Monarchs blew the game open. The TMP defense fueled a 9-0 run to start the second quarter that gave the home team a 28-10 lead just 90 seconds later.
The Monarchs put up points in a hurry, as Koerner, Pfeifer, Megan Koenigsman and Deonna Wellbrock each connected from beyond the arc in the second. The result was a 41-18 halftime lead.
“Tonight, our guards shot the ball extremely well,” McFarland said.
While the TMP shooters were certainly feeling it, Smith Center’s defense regularly allowed uncontested looks.
“Our intent tonight was to play man-(to-man) and have a hand in the face so they weren’t able to have open threes, which they had pretty much all night,” Linn said. “That was also kinda depressing.”
Pfeifer added 3-pointers in each of the final two quarters, as the Monarchs continued to increase their lead. The senior made all three of her attempts from deep and finished with a game-high 18 points.
Two teammates joined Pfeifer in double figures. Sophomore Kayla Vitztum contributed 11 points and seven rebounds, while Koerner added 10 points and three steals.
McFarland left Friday’s game feeling good about her team’s final performance before the MCL tournament begins.
“It showed glimpses of what this team can do,” McFarland said. “That’s what we want to play like next week, that aggressive, that intense and that focused coming out early in the game.”
TMP 63, Smith Center 29
Smith Center (4-5) 10 8 4 7 — 29
TMP (7-2) 19 22 12 10 — 63
SC — Kuhn 14, Mann 6, Strine 2, Timmonrs 4, Nixon 3.
TMP — A. Koenigsman 2, M. Koenigsman 9, Koerner 10, Pfeifer 18, Zimmerman 5, Vitztum 11, DeWitt 4, Wellbrock 3, Weber 1.