Now, Rose McFarland hopes her team can just relax and play.

The coach of the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls’ basketball team was breathing a sigh of relief after Saturday night’s Class 3A sub-state championship game.

She knew her Monarchs didn’t have their best outing. Still, TMP was able to claim a 38-36 victory against a solid Russell squad.

“We have great chemistry on this team,” McFarland said. “Everyone is just trying their hardest. I’m just tickled pink that we won. I was a little concerned at the end, and we haven’t been in a lot of close games. The Abilene game we ended up losing, and the Plainville game was close and we won it. … I’m just really happy and pleased. I’m just happy we’re moving on. It’s like we got that game over with now, and let’s just go play.”

The Monarchs (20-2) will play Wellsville (18-4) at 4:45 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament in Hutchinson.

TMP qualified for the season finale for the third straight season. The last two trips have finished in third-place outings.

“We had a lot of good seniors on our team last year,” McFarland said. “I think a lot of people thought we would be done. But we won the league and did well here. I thought we started the season well in the Shootout. We lost to Aquinas, but it really showed what we could do. From then on, the girls just built confidence throughout the whole season. To go back down there three times in a row is just amazing. A lot of people don’t make it there once. These girls have a lot to be proud of.”

After a 43-30 loss to 5A powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas to open the season in the Hays City Shootout, the Monarchs rattled off 12 straight wins before a 38-34 loss at Abilene.

Now, entering the school’s sixth state appearance, TMP has won eight straight by an average of 15.5 points.

Senior Kayla Vitztum has been the team’s top scorer this winter. The Newman University volleyball signee has scored in double figures in all but four games this year, including a season-high 30 against 5A Great Bend.

But the Monarchs have a solid backcourt in senior point guard Aubrey Koenigsman and junior Jillian Lowe. Senior Savannah Yost and junior Emily Schippers also are starters, and sophomore Adell Riedel provides a scoring threat off the bench.

A win in Thursday’s first round will put the Monarchs in Friday’s 3 p.m. semifinal against either Seneca-Nemaha Central (21-2) or Hoyt-Royal Valley (15-7). The title game is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Monarchs know how to win at state, evident by its last two trips. But they also were the 3A champion in volleyball this year.

“I don’t think we’re going to be intimidated there,” McFarland said. “We’re just going to go and play our best and see what happens.”