In a battle of state-ranked teams Saturday night, the Salina-Sacred Heart boys traveled to “the pit” of Al Billinger Fieldhouse and outlasted Hays/Thomas More Prep-Marian 54-48 in a physical contest which should help prepare both squads for postseason.


In the girls’ game, TMP came in under .500 and had lost on the road the night before, but surprised Sacred Heart, 67-45.


In the boys’ contest, TMP scored the game’s first nine points and was up 12-7 after the first eight minutes.


“I told them we’re going to make our spurts, they’re going to have their spurts,” said Sacred Heart assistant coach Nick Pahls, filling in for head coach Brian Gormley (out with the flu) for the second straight night.


“It was a good start for our guys,” TMP coach Bill Meagher said. “We just couldn’t get many stops first half. In the second half, we couldn’t get the offense going.”


Sacred Heart got within 25-19 at the half and the Knights took their first lead at 33-31 on a bucket by junior Mason Richards with 1:38 left in the third quarter.


“They came out and battled” after halftime, Pahls said.


“They were very physical,” Meagher said. “Our guys struggled with their physicality.”


Sacred Heart had an easy home win over Council Grove on Friday while TMP battled back in the fourth quarter to win at Phillipsburg.


“We told (the players) they are going to be tired tonight,” Pahls said.


“Our guys, I think they were a little tired; shots didn’t fall,” Meagher said.


Sacred Heart led by a point entering the fourth. TMP tied the game at 38-38 on a free throw by junior guard Jackson Schulte with 5:18 left but the Monarchs could never get the lead. TMP scored a basket inside by 6-foot-7 senior forward Carson Jacobs to get within 47-45 with 1:19 left. But Sacred Heart, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, made just enough free throws (7-of-12) in the final 1:11 to claim the win and improve to 15-2. Junior Caleb Gilliland led the visitors with 16 points.


TMP, ranked No. 7 in Class 3A, fell to 13-3. The Monarchs were led by Schulte’s game-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers.


“These are what sub-state games feel like,” Meagher said. “As long as we learn a lesson from it, it’s a good game for us. For us, we embrace and are excited by the competition.”


TMP 67, Sacred Heart 45


The TMP girls swished 3-pointers on their first two shots, then later held off a third-quarter rally before winning going away.


“The TMP girls showed up to compete,” Sacred Heart coach Keenen Thompson said. “They were smoking us on the boards in the first half. Some of their shooters got really hot. It’s hard to recover when you get a few (3-pointers) to start the game.”


The Monarchs led 19-11 after the first quarter and went into the locker room at halftime leading 29-23. The Knights’ ball pressure helped the visitors close within 36-34 on senior Amber Palen’s trey with 3:05 left in the third. But TMP went on a 13-2 run over the final three minutes to take a 49-36 lead heading into the fourth.


“When Amber hit that 3 in the corner, I thought that was going to be the turnaround,” Thompson said.


However, the Monarchs hit six of their last seven shots in the quarter, from six different players, and TMP doubled the score on Sacred Heart (18-9) in the final eight minutes to pull away.


“We got a lead and the other team came back; we stuck with what we are doing,” TMP coach Rose McFarland said. “I feel like we are getting better. That’s probably the most important thing. I thought we did a lot of nice things on the floor. That’s what I like to see.”


Sacred Heart (12-5) got 12 points from senior Hannah Goetz.


“My girls were battling,” Thompson said. “We just never could quite get there.”


TMP (6-11) was led by junior Kyleigh Allen’s 16 points and 10 from sophomore Megan Hamel. Sophomore Kassidi Yost grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.


“I thought the whole team, good effort by all of them,” McFarland said.


TMP, which started four sophomores and a junior on Saturday, bounced back after Friday’s loss.


“This is what we need to do for postseason,” McFarland said. “I think we’re making progress. Some teams this time of the year are ready to hang it up; these girls aren’t. They’re striving to get better.”