For anyone who has been paying attention to what the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls’ basketball team has been doing in 2016-17, there probably was little doubt in their minds about what was going to happen Monday night.
The Monarchs — not surprisingly to most — did what they have done for what is now 18 straight games. They got a win. But that didn’t mean the No. 2 ranked team in Class 3A didn’t have some things they wanted to focus in their 70-22 first-round Class 3A sub-state victory against Phillipsburg at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
Once the game was in hand, TMP wanted to focus on some of the things the team’s coach, Rose McFarland, feels it will need to be better at as the competition gets tougher.
“Main thing is win the game, of course,” said McFarland, whose team moved to 20-1, having not lost since the championship game of the season-opening Hays City Shootout to Class 6A Manhattan. “The other thing is you don’t want anyone to get injured, just get through this game, and get ready for the next one.”
Plus, the Monarchs got a little more celebrating out of the way as senior sharp-shooter Madyson Koerner’s game-high 22 points put her over the 1,000 career points mark. She joins a list of five Monarchs that includes senior teammate Megan Koenigsman who did it earlier this year.
“So exciting. What an accomplishment to have two players on the same team to get there,” said McFarland. “She really didn’t know how many points she needed.”
Koerner only had three points at halftime, but the Monarchs still were able to mount a 43-17 lead by intermission. Junior Kayla Vitztum had 13 points in the first two quarters. The only threat Phillipsburg made was early when Hannah Hoover made two early 3-pointers, and the Panthers had an 8-6 lead.
Phillipsburg ended a season that has been a struggle from the onset. The Panthers’ lone win came 53-43 against Lincoln in December.
Monday night, it didn’t help going against TMP in the postseason opener. The Monarchs won the regular-season meeting by 39. The Monarchs’ full-court press struck often after Monday’s early 8-6 score.
That was key for McFarland, as her team prepares to face Beloit on Thursday in Russell.
“We wanted to contest every shot,” McFarland said. “And communicate more on defense — transitioning out of the press back into our halfcourt.
“Sometimes we don’t pick them up quick enough. We did a better job with that tonight, not giving up some open shots.”
With her team already leading by nearly 30 at the break, Koerner got hot in the third quarter, She hit one 3, and scored 13 of her 22 in the third quarter. She got points 1,000, 1,001 and 1,002 on a conventional three-point play in the running-clock fourth quarter before McFarland called a timeout and sat the starter.
Public address announcer Rod Fairbank announced the milestone. It made the score 68-22, and Koerner joined a list of five that includes Lori Flax, Kaylee Hoffman, Rachel Jacobs and Koenigsman.
The senior duo and a loaded senior class will look to push those numbers even higher with what the team hopes is at least three more games this season, but would rather have five more.
“We had an outstanding regular season, but it’s 0-0 on the record,” McFarland said. “The girls have high expectations, but anything can happen. We have to prepare for every game.”
The Monarchs will face a Beloit team that picked up a 40-37 against Norton when a Bluejay 3 rimmed off before as time expired in other sub-state action Monday night.