Aided by clutch plays from Jackson Schulte and Ryan Stoecklein in the final minute, the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys pulled out a 55-51 win over Ellis on Tuesday at Al Billinger Field House.
Ellis grabbed a 51-50 lead with a minute left on Daniel Eck's 3-pointer, but Schulte answered with a mid-range jumper to put the Monarchs back in front, and Stoecklein later sealed it thanks to a big offensive rebound off a missed free throw.
"It was just a great high school game," TMP coach Bill Meagher said. "Two teams that were competing incredibly hard. Just a fun game to be a part of.
"I thought our kids grew up a little bit. Couple stretches where we didn't have great body language and we looked a little soft. But I thought they got themselves together, gave themselves a chance at the end and then won the ballgame."
After Schulte's go-ahead bucket with about 45 seconds left, Ellis committed a turnover, and Stoecklein was fouled with 10.1 seconds left with TMP protecting a one-point lead. The senior made the first free throw and missed the second, but alertly followed the shot and was fouled while grabbing the offensive rebound with 8.9 left on the clock.
Stoecklein then hit both free throws to make it a four-point game and help clinch the win.
"He's got that killer instinct as a player. He's a senior, he's a winner and he just knows how to make plays in those opportunities," Meagher said. "He saw a window there and jumped through there and got the ball."
TMP moved to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in Mid-Continent League play while the Railers dropped to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the MCL.
"Hard-fought game," Ellis coach Mark Eck said. "Obviously we knew coming in that TMP is pretty much the best team I've seen in our league as far as being pretty complete. We knew that their pressure was going to be a pretty big factor — not just what they do to you defensively, but the way they push the ball down the floor. It's just a constant strain on your defense. I felt like we did a pretty good job of getting back, but we gave up a few easy buckets.
"But at the end of the day, my hat's off to them. They won a hard-fought game. I've got a lot of respect for what they've done over here. Bill's just doing a phenomenal job with them. They're going to be a tough out."
Schulte paced the Monarchs with 17 while Carson Jacobs finished with 14. Stoecklein chipped in 10.
"(Schulte) was obviously one of our main concerns coming in, him and Jacobs," Eck said. "Jacobs is a mismatch for us inside because we're just not very tall. Schulte did the same thing to us last year in the second game they beat us; he hit two back-to-back threes that were pretty tough. But we'll learn from it. They're extremely difficult to defend because they got kids who can penetrate and kids who can shoot and they got a great post player inside."
After the game was tied at 26 at halftime, Ellis took a six-point lead but was unable to extend it, with TMP closing the third frame on a 10-0 run that included big 3-pointers from Schulte and Lucas Lang.
Zachary Eck paced Ellis with 16 points while Brady Frickey added 15 and Daniel Eck had 12.
It was the third straight game between the Railers and Monarchs that went down to the wire, with the teams splitting two close games last year.
"It's two good basketball teams and people like to come watch good basketball," Eck said.
"I told Coach Eck after the game that I wish we could play them every night, in some ways," Meagher said. "One, it's a fun basketball game and our kids enjoy a competitive game. They just play so hard that it makes us elevate. ... Good kids, good communities, good families and just a fun game."
TMP will play host to Sacred Heart on Friday while Ellis will play host to Hill City next Friday.