Friday night’s boys game between Smith Center and Thomas More Prep-Marian was an unusual one.
Despite TMP coach Joe Hertel describing some of his team’s play as “ugly,” the Monarchs left their home court with an 80-54 win.
“I just thought it was going to be an ugly, low-scoring game,” Hertel said. “I look up, we got 80 on the board, and the entire bench is in for a significant amount of minutes.”
The Monarch bench got into the action early. Starting point guard Peyton Hoffman picked up his second foul less than two minutes into the game.
Hayden Lowe came off the bench and scored a bucket that helped the Monarchs to an 18-10 lead after the first quarter. Jared Vitztum set an early tone, scoring eight points in the opening eight minutes.
Hoffman, however, picked up his third foul with more than a minute left in the first quarter, and TMP took a step back in the second quarter. Smith Center’s Gavin Overmiller and Jesse Staples each knocked down 3-pointers in the second quarter. Staples’s triple was followed by a foul call, and he completed a four-point play in the final seconds of the half, allowing Smith Center to close within six at 33-27 at halftime.
“I don’t think this night was ever about offense, but I thought we were lethargic and soft in the first half defensively,” Hertel said. “We didn’t move our feet, and consequently, there were a lot of fouls.”
The toughest part of the foul trouble for Hertel was the two Monarchs most afflicted with foul trouble were two of the team’s most trusted ball handlers.
Foul trouble only got worse in the start of the second half, as Hoffman picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.
Smith Center employed a 2-3 zone defense, and when the Monarchs reevaluated at the half and emerged a better team, their offense found success even with starters limited due to fouls.
“I appreciate the fact that we pulled ourselves together and got back to work at what we do well,” Hertel said.
Senior starter Chase Romme was the main benefactor with Hoffman sidelined. Once the Monarchs got the ball in the middle of the zone, Romme frequently cut along the baseline and finished at the basket. He finished with 16 points, second only to Vitztum who lead all scorers with 25 points.
“For Chase to step up and get in double figures and do the work that he did down low, is just a real shot in the arm for our game,” Hertel said.
Hoffman fouled out in the fourth quarter having played under a quarter of the game.
After what Hertel characterized as a poor effort from his bench players in the first half, the bunch performed better as TMP extended its lead throughout the second half. The Monarchs scored at least 22 points in each of the final two quarters despite not making a 3-pointer at any point in the game.
“When you can play zone offense as effective as we did, going inside and not being able to knock down a single long ball, I think you’ve been pretty efficient,” Hertel said.
TJ Flax was the third Monarch in double figures with 10 points. Reserve big man Michael Lager added eight points in the fourth quarter.
Brett Meyer and Gavin Overmiller led Smith Center with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Hertel said he expects the two teams will meet again Tuesday in the MCL tournament. Smith Center plays Oakley on Monday with the Monarchs awaiting the victor.
While Friday’s second half was a step in the right direction, Hertel isn’t entirely satisfied with his team heading into the conference tournament.
“We made some really inane mental errors tonight,” Hertel said. “If we’re going to compete with the likes of Abilene, Scott City and Great Bend after the tournament, we gotta clean that up and get some stuff right.”
Thomas More Prep-Marian 80, Smith Center 54
SC 10 17 16 11 — 54
TMP 18 15 25 22 — 80
TMP — Hoffman 2, Romme 16, Flax 10, Vitztum 25, Ruder 7, Lowe 2, Werth 2, Schumacher 4, Renz 4, Lager 8.
SC — Benoit 4, Hackerott 9, Hobelman 6, Overmiller 10, Meyer 11, Gooder 4, Staples 9, Haven 1.