Monday’s Class 3A sub-state opener against Phillipsburg was exactly the kind of knock-down-drag-out battle the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys expected.
And it felt every bit as good as the Monarchs anticipated to come out victorious.
Senior Ryan Stoecklein put TMP in front on a 3-pointer with about three minutes left, and the Monarchs kept the Panthers in check down the stretch to survive with a 42-38 win on Monday at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
The No. 3-seeded Monarchs (17-4) will advance to the semifinals of the Beloit sub-state to face No. 2 seed Hoisington (17-4) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Beloit.
"We thought this game would be exactly like this. We told our guys that if we get out of here with a one-point win we’re going to be really excited," TMP coach Bill Meagher said.
TMP led by five early in the fourth but Phillipsburg’s Ty Sides hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Panthers up a point with 4:21 left.
Stoecklein’s trey put TMP up 38-36 with 2:54 left. Phillipsburg (12-10) was still within two with under a minute left, but Jackson Schulte pushed the lead to four on a pair of free throws with 20.3 seconds remaining and Phillipsburg couldn’t draw closer.
"It’s the third time we’ve seen them," Meagher said. "They know our stuff, we know their stuff. Everything was going to be hard as far as scoring goes. I’m really proud of our guys for finding a way to get a win tonight."
The Monarchs had to play without senior post player Carson Jacobs for two key stretches. Jacobs sat out the last 7:35 of the second quarter after picking up his second foul. The Monarchs struggled to score in his absence but were still within four (22-18) of the Panthers at halftime.
Jacobs then left the game with 6:54 remaining the fourth quarter when he was shaken up after taking a hit to the head. But he was cleared to return about three minutes later and came up with a couple of key plays in the closing minutes.
"I thought it was good of him to get himself back in the game and make a difference," Meagher said. "He got a huge rebound down the stretch. Just nice to see that he’s OK and he’s ready to play."
Meagher credited the energy provided by senior guard Brady Kreutzer, who came up with several steals and took a key charge late.
"I thought Brady was excellent tonight," Meagher said. "He really put a lot of pressure on them defensively, jumping through the passing lanes. Got his hands on a lot of different passes. He kept pushing the tempo for us. We really wanted to get the ball up the floor quick and to continue to attack in transition. He’s one of our guys that will put his head down and get the ball to the other side of the floor."
TMP went 3-0 on the season against Phillipsburg.
"Phillipsburg had kind of had our number (in previous years) and nobody on our side wanted to go out to them," Meagher said. "Coach (Keith) Sides is an excellent coach. His kids play incredibly hard; they’ve got an excellent tradition. Beating a team like that, you know you did something because that’s an excellent program."
Schulte led TMP with 12, while Sides scored 12 for Phillipsburg.
Hoisington moved to the semifinals after a 66-24 rout of Concordia. On the other side of the bracket, No. 1 Beloit rolled to a 73-37 win over Russell. They will play Norton, which earned a 55-49 win over Minneapolis.