By NICK McQUEEN
VICTORIA -- In a tie game with 15 seconds to play, first-year Victoria High School boys' basketball coach Dylan Dronberger thought briefly about giving his Knights a timeout to think things over Tuesday night as they hosted Thomas More Prep-Marian.
Then, he saw who had the ball. Senior point guard Bryan Dome, who a little less than a month ago turned in a stellar performance in the Knight football team's Eight-Man Division II state championship win, had "that look in his eye," Dronberger said.
"You know he's going to get after it," the coach said. "That's the guy I want. Kind of the reason I didn't call the time out."
Dome ran the clock down near the buzzer, and then made his move. He cut to the right side of the lane, and made a contested layup with less than a second to go, capping a thrilling 58-56 win for Victoria.
"He had the ball in his hands, and he was going to do something with it," Dronberger said. "He really made me look good."
The shot was another dagger in a rough start for the Monarchs. TMP lost for the fourth time in five games. Three of those losses have come by three points or less. It came after TMP had fallen down by 10 points in the third quarter.
"We had a chance to pull it out," TMP coach Joe Hertel said. "I'm proud of the kids' effort to battle back in."
It was a topsy-turvy night. The Monarchs had jumped out to an 11-4 lead, making their first five shots, including a 3-pointer from senior guard Kameron Schmidt, whose career-high 29 points ended up not being quite enough.
Then, the shots stopped falling for a bit for TMP, and Victoria took advantage.
"They're going to battle," Dronberger said of his team. "They're not going to give up. We're going to every game with that mentality."
Dome, senior Noah Dreiling and junior Joe Dortland got hot in the second quarter and rallied the Knights (4-1). Victoria took its first lead at 25-24 with a Dortland 3, his second of the second quarter, and then hit a pair of free throws to boost that lead to 27-24. But in the final 1:30 of the first half, the lead changed three times, and Dortland's third three gave the Knights the 30-29 halftime edge.
Then, out of the locker room, his fourth 3 started an early second-half surge.
"This was big," Dronberger said. "We just came off a loss (in the Purple & Gold Championship game against Stockon), and that kind of hurt. We know we can improve and we knew this was our last game before Christmas break.
"We'll just keep on going in practice."
The Victoria lead grew to double digits before Schmidt brought TMP back. He hit two 3s in the third quarter, then his fifth 3 midway through the fourth tied the game at 50, and it was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way.
Hertel praised the career night for Schmidt, but also eluded to the fact his team will have to find someone else to step up and fill the void, a hole he admitted he didn't think would be as big as it is after the graduation of Ryan Mayorga and Jordan Gottschalk, and the offseason injury to current senior guard Max Megaffin.
"You gotta get some help," Hertel said. "We had opportunities. I'm talking about gimme, bunny shots that every one of the guys can make. Then, little mistakes like giving up an offense rebound on a free throw. All of those are things that could have changed the outcome of this game."
TMP had just four players score, including junior forward Jared Vitztum's 14 points. Vitztum hit the tying 3-pointer to make it 56-56, before Dome's game-winner. Hertel also was displeased with his team's ability to rebound.
"We got taught how to rebound tonight by Victoria's kids," Hertel said. "We are not getting any second opportunities. We also don't have the overall scoring punch to get down by 10, and battle back and get a win."
The Monarchs have a two-point loss to Newton, and back-to-back two-point losses to Hill City and Victoria.
"If you're offensively challenged, you just simply have to make more stops and fewer mistakes," Hertel said. "We're going to try and focus on the areas we know we can clean up."
Victoria put four players in double digits, led by Dortland's 16. Dreiling and junior Eric McAlonan each had 13, and Dome finished with 12. The Knights hit seven 3s. Victoria's man-to-man gave TMP fits the entire game.
"We're going to be aggressive," Dronberger said. "Our motto is never settle, and we're not going to settle for anything less than going all the way."
While Victoria is finished for the semester, TMP will play host to Oakley on Friday night before the holiday break. It will be the first varsity game in Al Billinger Fieldhouse since the 2012-13 seasons as the Monarchs' had to undergo renovations last season. Tipoff is 6 p.m. for the girls, with the boys to follow.
TMP girls 64, Victoria 30
Tuesday night's matchup might be a prime example of what the TMP girls are going to be capable of if they get a hot hand from the outside. That, mixed with a stalwart defensive effort, was enough to help the Monarchs cruise past 1-4 Victoria, 64-30.
The Monarchs hit eight 3s, and after falling behind 16-15, went on a 43-9 run, and eventually put the game away with a running fourth-quarter clock.
"Our defense was a little shaky at the beginning, but we tried to do some different things we haven't already done this year," Monarch coach Rose McFarland said. "Thought we got it going about the second quarter, started playing much better defense."
TMP (4-1) found fire in the second quarter as well. The Monarchs scored 26 second-quarter points with three 3-pointers. Sophomore Megan Koenigsman scored nine of her team-high 16 as the Monarchs opened up a 20-point lead by the break. Sophomore Deonna Wellbrock hit a 3 at the buzzer to put TMP up 41-21.
"I know we have good shooters, and the girls inside are coming around," McFarland said. "They did a good job on the boards, and had some good looks. Some times they didn't fall, but we're getting shots. That's the main thing."
Victoria, playing in its first season without former standouts Kristin Huser and Audra Nowak, played well early, but struggled in the second half, with just four third-quarter points. The Monarchs threw in some full-court pressure, and a half-court trap, something McFarland hopes to add to TMP's arsenal this season.
Senior Kiley Schidtberger led the Knights with eight points -- all in the first half. Koenigsman led TMP with 16, while junior Melissa Pfeifer added 14, and sophomore Madyson Koerner 11.
Victoria 58, TMP 56
TMP 17 12 10 17 -- 56
Victoria 17 13 15 12 -- 58
TMP -- Kameron Schmidt 29, Jared Vitztum 14, Schippers 7, Schumacher 6.
Victoria -- Joe Dortland 16, Eric McAlonan 13, Bryan Dome 12, Dinkel 2, Noah Dreiling 13.
TMP 64, Victoria 30
TMP 15 26 10 13 -- 64
Victoria 11 10 4 5 -- 30
TMP -- Megan Koenigsman 16, Melissa Pfeifer 14, Koenigsman 4, Wellbrock 9, Madyson Koerner 11, Dewitt 8, Vitztum 2.
Victoria -- Newbold 2, Leiker 2, Radke 4, Schmidtberger 8, Pfanenstiel 4, Leiker 6, Wagner 4.