WAKEENEY — Thomas More Prep-Marian boys basketball coach Bill Meagher took issue with several aspects of his team’s performance in the second half of Thursday’s Mid-Continent League Tournament semifinal against Hill City, with TMP seeing an 11-point halftime lead shrink down to one in the fourth quarter.
But Meagher also saw the Monarchs make up for it by making the right decisions in the final moments to hold off the Ringnecks 48-45 at Trego Community High School, advancing to Saturday’s title game against Phillipsburg.
After Hill City crept within a point on a bucket from Brody McDowell with 1:42 left, TMP kept control of the ball and whittled the clock down to 17.6 seconds left after forcing the Ringnecks to use their fouls to give. Sophomore Lucas Lang then hit two free throws to make it a 3-point game.
TMP (8-4) took a foul to give with 3.9 seconds left and the Ringnecks inbounded the ball from the baseline. Hill City got a decent look at a corner 3 but Dalen Journigan’s shot rattled out at the buzzer.
“I told the guys as much as we struggled in the first whatever kind of minutes, the last three minutes we made a lot of really good decisions and a lot of really good plays,” Meagher said. “That’s a mark of a team that has that ability to focus and make plays. We obviously weren't focused in the first part but I was really proud of how they finished.”
Meagher said TMP got complacent in the second half after taking a 30-19 lead into the break. TMP led 44-39 at the end of third before the teams combined for just 10 points in the fourth quarter.
However, Meagher said it's beneficial for his team to learn how to grind out close games.
“For a coach there is nothing fun about that, but it’s good for our guys to be able to learn what possession games like that feel like, because as you get close to sub-state, all those games end up with that kind of pressure on it," Meagher said. "Our guys need to feel that and they need to experience some success with that.”
Senior Ryan Karlin led the Monarchs with 15 points while sophomore Jackson Schulte added 10. Journigan paced Hill City (5-4) with 14 points while McDowell finished with 13.
Saturday's MCL title game will be a rematch of last year, with Phillipsburg looking to claim the tournament for a third straight year.
“It’ll be a great challenge for us but will be excited to be in the game and see what we can do," Meagher said
Senior standout Trey Sides led Phillipsburg (8-2) into the tournament final with a game-high 26 points in a 68-45 win over Plainville. Sides erupted for 19 points in the third quarter to help turn the Panthers' six-point halftime lead into a 20-point advantage heading into the fourth.
“We got Trey going in the third quarter,” Phillipsburg coach Keith Sides said. “I thought we didn’t get it to him enough right away. We’ve got to give him the ball early.”
Plainville leading scorer Jared Casey was held back by foul trouble, finishing with five points before fouling out early in the fourth. Tanner Copeland led the Cardinals with 12 points.
“Casey and Copeland are great players. We got three quick guards that can really take turns and guard them, which really helps,” Keith Sides said. “We did a good job against them.”
Austin Miller joined Sides in double figures with 14 for Phillipsburg.
Norton girls roll past TMP
The Norton girls may have put the rest of the league on notice that the BlueJays are for real, ending the TMP girls four-year reign as MCL Tournament champions with a 59-29 semifinal win over the Monarchs in Thursday's semifinal.
Norton dominated from the get-go, scoring the first 17 points of the game and opening up a 38-12 lead by halftime as TMP struggled against the Bluejays' press.
“We ran our press break really well tonight,” Norton coach George Rossi said. “It helped us get some open shots and I think it gave our kids some confidence for us to run our press again. I think we did a great job in our press. That’s the best our press has looked all year.
“We’re happy to come away with a win. TMP has always been a good team and they’ve had our number forever and ever. We’re pretty happy with just coming out with a win.”
Norton, which finished 13-10 last year, moved to 9-1 on the season and ended TMP's streak of 40 straight MCL wins.
“We had a good group of starters coming back,” Rossi said. “We have some starters this year that I thought as freshmnn played pretty good and would help us out. We’ve got a good point guard that’s really quick. I think the tools that we have with our top group, we were hoping for a good season. So far it’s panning out.”
Taryn Kuhn led Norton with 18 points while Hadley Hauser and Tessa Hauser added 14 and 10, respectively.
No. 2-seeded Norton will go for the tournament title against top-seeded Trego (9-1), which beat Smith Center 44-39 in the other semifinal.
“It’s been 10 years since we’ve won an MCL Tournament title, so we’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot,” Rossi said. “Trego’s going to be a tough team. It’s going to be hard to play in their home gym on Saturday night. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us.”
The Monarchs (7-4) will play Smith Center in the third-place game on Saturday in WaKeeney.