After taking their lumps at times during the Mid-Continent League slate, the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys delivered their best basketball at the right time late last season, making a run to the Class 3A state semifinals.

Now Bill Meagher is hoping his Monarchs can build off the late-season success and hit the ground running in his second year as TMP head coach.

“I’m hopeful it gave them some confidence,” Meagher said of the strong finish. “I think you always got to be careful that we’re not on the side of entitled or that we think we’ve already done something. When the season starts over we’re zero and zero. But I’m hopeful that they see if you work hard, good things will happen down the stretch for you.”

The Monarchs were in danger of finishing with a losing campaign last year, but TMP hit its stride late, beating Lyons, Hoisington and Smoky Valley in sub-state before knocking off previously-unbeaten Maur Hill in the first round of the Class 3A tournament. The Monarchs fell by 12 in the semifinal to eventual state champion Girard and took an eight-point loss to Perry-Lecompton in the third-place game, ending the year with a 14-13 mark.

TMP lost four seniors off that team, including second-team All-MCL picks Jared Mayers and Ryan Karlin, but return several players who saw significant minutes last year. The Monarchs have four seniors again this year — Carson Jacobs, Ryan Stoecklein, Brady Kreutzer and Mason Robbins.

The Monarchs will open the Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout against Olathe West at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday at Hays High.

“Our four seniors have been fantastic for us,” Meagher said. “Carson Jacobs will have to be a big guy inside for us and get a lot of minutes in the post. Ryan Stoecklein’s not fully healthy, he won’t play in the Shootout probably, but I think he’ll be a leader for us. Brady Kreutzer, the way he guards and the way he moves on offense, pushes everybody around him well. Mason Robbins, who didn’t get a lot of time last year, he’s a senior this year and we think he can help us in the post area.”

Junior guard Jackson Schulte was a second-team All-MCL pick last year for the Monarchs. Other returning varsity players include junior guards Lucas Lang and Hayden Brown, junior forwards Garrett Pfeifer and Trenton Rome and sophomore guards Bryce Seib and Jace Wentling.

“I like our team speed, I like how hard we play,” Meagher said. “These guys practice harder than we did last year, which is nice to see. Our top 10 are really competitive in practice. Our practices are really kind of wars, which is what we want these guys to have."

“It’s been a little easier this year just with the routine and those sort of things,” Meagher said of his second year as TMP head coach. “I think each group is different, so we still got our things that we’re working on. Just for myself, knowing what to expect has made it a little smoother.”

Meagher said the Monarchs will embrace opening with a tough test in the three-day Hays Shootout. The winner of the TMP-Olathe West winner will face the winner between Hays High and Life Prep in Friday's semifinals. The other side of the bracket consists of Great Bend, Manhattan, Free State and Millwood (Okla). 

“We love it,” Meagher said of the early-season challenge. “It’s going to be intense. It’s going to be high-pressured, as far as the competition level. We will know Sunday exactly what we are. I tell our guys — and this is kind of our attitude — don’t feel sorry for us because we play in a tough tournament, feel sorry for guys who don’t get that opportunity. We’ll know right away what we’re good at, what we’re not good at, and we’ll get some days to fix it before our next game."

He also anticipates another strong year for the MCL.

“In the MCL, the coaching is so awesome, and we saw that last year when we got down the stretch,” Meagher said. “We just get to go against really good coaches all year long, so I think every team in there will be competitive. I think everybody will be good.”

Kreutzer signs with Fort Hays State baseball

Kreutzer was set to sign his letter of intent to play baseball at Fort Hays State University on Wednesday. Check and Friday's print edition for an article on Kreutzer signing with the Tigers.