In a matchup of two of the better Mid-Continent League teams, the Thomas More Prep-Marian and Hill City girls squared off against one another Friday night.
The Monarchs jumped quickly out to a 9-0 lead to begin the game, then held on for a 49-43 victory at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
Hill City controlled possession early, but TMP (3-1) was able to capitalize off fast breaks, which is what led to most of the Monarchs points at the beginning of the game.
The Ringnecks battled back, however, capitalizing on TMP turnovers and went on an 8-0 run to end the first quarter, bringing them within three of the Monarchs. Hill City rode that momentum into the second quarter and continued to narrow the gap and finally tie the game at 13.
Both teams then exchanged 3-pointers — junior Jillian Lowe for the Monarchs and Conner Keith for the Ringnecks. After that, Hill City gained the advantage and led 21-19 at half.
In the third quarter, the lead went back and forth as the teams exchanged possessions until the game was tied at 25. Then TMP went on a 9-3 run to end the quarter.
That lead would be enough to carry TMP through the fourth quarter. Hill City closed the gap to three points, but the Monarchs were able to make free throws down the stretch and go on to win the game.
Ellie Keener had 14 points for the Ringnecks, while senior Kayla Vitztum led the way for the Monarchs with 18 points.
Vitztum said defense was the key to victory.
“We really focused on getting up on their guards,” she said. “They have really good shooters, and we also focused on rebounding and boxing out really big.”
She noted TMP was able to capitalize from behind the arc, too.
“Our guards really stepped up tonight and hit a few 3's since they were guarding the inside really tight,” Vitztum said.
Vitztum recognized just how big of a win it was for the Monarchs.
“Hill City is one of the better teams in the league, so it feels good to know that we can play along and fight with them and beat them,” she said.
TMP boys 64, Hill City 40
The Hill City boys fought hard against TMP in the first quarter. The Ringnecks actually led the Monarchs 12-10 at the end of the opening quarter, but from then on out, it was all TMP as they outscored the Ringnecks 21-7 in the second quarter behind three treys from senior David McFarland.
The Monarchs took a commanding 31-19 lead at halftime and never looked back as they coasted on to an easy MCL victory. McFarland was the leading scorer for the Monarchs, while Garrett Handley led Hill City.
TMP coach Joe Hertel said that after a loss to Hill City last year, his team had to prove to themselves they could play disciplined basketball and come out on top.
“Last year, we shot ourselves out of the game in the first quarter because we too readily shot the 3-ball and Hill City had a 15-point lead at halftime,” Hertel said. “So our idea for tonight was to be more disciplined in the early part of the game and try to attack all areas and be more of an inside-out shooting team. I think some of the lethargy in the first quarter was because we were more patient than we normally are. We don’t usually like to spend too much time on a possession, but tonight we needed to prove that we could be disciplined. As soon as we got comfortable on both ends, we were able to heat it up a bit.”