After leading by as much as 15 points in the third quarter of Tuesday’s sub-state opener against Lyons, Thomas More Prep-Marian boys basketball coach Bill Meagher felt his team was a little too tentative in trying to protect the lead.
But after finding themselves in a tie game in the last couple minutes, the Monarchs returned to attack mode in time to keep their season alive.
TMP came through with big plays on both ends of the floor in the closing moments to survive the scare from the Lions, posting a 51-46 victory at Al Billinger Fieldhouse to advance to the semifinals in the Class 3A Hoisington sub-state.
TMP (11-11) led 36-21 in the third quarter but Lyons went on a 21-6 run that extended into the fourth quarter, tying the game with 2:16 left.
After the Monarchs and Lions traded buckets, TMP's Ryan Karlin broke a 44-44 tie on a 3-pointer with 1:27 left. The Lions crept back within a point with 1:02 remaining but the Monarchs came up with a couple defensive stops and put it away with free throws from Brady Kreutzer and Jackson Schulte.
“At some point, I think we were trying to protect the lead and that makes us hesitant,” Meagher said. “Then when it was an even game, we had to start attacking. I think guys started actually playing more free and hitting shots and attacking. In a way, that helped us a little bit.
“I would have loved to have a big lead all the way to the end, but I was proud of how our guys had some resolve not to let that (game) get away.”
The Lions (5-15) trailed by three in the closing seconds before TMP’s Jared Mayers drew a charge with 5.2 seconds left. Schulte then sealed it with a pair of free throws with 1.7 left on the clock.
The charge Mayers took was one of a handful of offensive fouls the Monarchs drew throughout the game.
“Those kind of hustle plays are just guys putting their bodies on the line for their buddies,” Meagher said. “It’s a huge deal for us and it really changed the first half of the game.”
Schulte helped fuel the Monarchs with a game-high 20 points.
“In the first half we needed him to get past their first level to their zone and get to the rim, get fouled and make some buckets. Just a good night for him,” Meagher said of Schulte.
Ryan Karlin added 10 points for TMP. Billy Harley and Connor Minnix each scored 13 points for Lyons while Trey McClure finished with 10.
The No. 2-seeded Monarchs will play No. 3-seeded Hoisington on its home floor at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night after the Cardinals advanced with a 61-43 win over Russell on Tuesday.
“We’ve got to come ready to play in the first quarter better than we did tonight," Meagher said. "Otherwise, we’re not going to get a chance to hang in that game. We need to show up or it’s going to be a quick end. I think that those guys will get themselves ready. I don’t think we were as sharp as we should’ve been in the first quarter tonight.”
Top-seeded Phillipsburg, a 61-38 winner over Southeast of Saline on Tuesday, will face Smoky Valley in the other semifinal at 6 p.m in Hoisington. Smoky Valley beat Norton 40-35 on Monday to advance.