The Thomas More Prep-Marian boys basketball team took its fair share of lumps against quality teams in the regular season, but Monarch coach Bill Meagher believes those challenges ended up paying huge dividends for TMP.
The Monarchs came through with two of their best games when they needed it most, advancing out of the Hoisington sub-state and punching their ticket to the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson.
TMP (13-11) earned a 66-54 win over Hoisington in the sub-state semifinal and then cruised to a 60-35 win in the final against a Smoky Valley team that had just upset top-seeded Phillipsburg.
"I'd say that we kind of peaked at the right time of the season," Meagher said. "I definitely thought those were our best two outings — complete outings — that we've had so far."
"Our guys are resilient," he added. "They've played really good teams all season long. They've dealt with a lot of adversity and have come together as a team. We're playing good basketball right now and we're excited to get up there and see what we can do."
The eighth-seeded Monarchs will open the state tournament against top-seeded Atchison-Maur Hill Academy (22-0) at 6:30 Thursday in Hutchinson Sports Arena.
Meagher said he thought a key to the Monarchs' success in the sub-state games was not overthinking things.
"I think the guys took a little of the pressure off themselves and just committed to playing the best they could possibly play instead or tying to worry about the score and trying to worry about the outcome," Meagher said. "They just went out there and played hard, and I think you can see that in how the games went on. I think that's the hardest they've played all season long. I think the rest of it took care of itself for them."
Meagher was quick to credit seniors Jared Mayers, Ryan Karlin, Grant Ginther and Jack Johnson for helping the Monarchs navigate through the rough patches of the season.
"It's a credit to our leadership and how they've continued to lead all season long that we're in this position," Meagher said. "For those guys, they had smiles on their faces after the (Smoky Valley) game and they really played well. The Lyons game (to open sub-state) was not our best outing, and give credit to Lyons on that, but certainly you want to be playing well at the end of the season and I think they really enjoyed (earning a state berth)."
The Monarchs are hoping their depth could be asset against Maur Hill.
"What we're looking at is that we play more guys," Meagher said. "We need to make the game an up-and-down game. We just need our bigs to continue to play like they've been playing and our guards to hit shots. We just got to go up there and bring a lot of energy on the rebounding side and the defensive side."