TMP girls basketball knocks off Phillipsburg

Special to Hays Daily News

The Thomas More Prep-Marian girls basketball team took a big step not only in the league race but also sent a message for postseason with Friday night’s 44-32 victory over Phillipsburg on the Panthers’ home court.

TMP forced a tie atop the Mid-Continent League standings, with the Monarchs and Panthers now both 8-1.

“We wanted them to celebrate, it’s a big win, but that’s not the pinnacle,” said TMP assistant coach Steph Howie, who helped fill in for head coach Rose McFarland, who stayed home ill. “We still have a couple league games left. We can’t let down now. This game’s not our season.”

Phillipsburg, ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, fell to 13-2 overall. The Panthers were hurt by foul trouble as the league’s leading scorer, sophomore point guard Taryn Sides, picked up her third foul in the second quarter and her fourth midway through the third.

“Their program is built around her,” Howie said. “… We just kept hammering you’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity.”

The Monarchs also put junior guard Sophia Balthazor on Sides defensively. Balthazor, a good 3-point shooter who had seven points, focused on defense. TMP led at the break after a low-scoring first half, 14-10.

“To hold Phillipsburg to 10 points … Sophia Balthazor, she had to switch her mindset tonight and play defense,” Howie said.

TMP, now 14-3, doubled the score on Phillipsburg in the third period, 14-7, to take a 28-17 lead into the final eight minutes. Junior point guard Megan Hamel hit a runner just before the buzzer to give the Monarchs the double-digit lead. Hamel scored all of her team-high 10 points in the second half.

“Megan stepped up big tonight,” Howie said. “I saw a leader I hadn’t seen before.”

Sophomore Jaci VonLintel added nine points off the bench and also helped guard Sides, who finished with 14 points. Junior forward Kassidi Yost added 6 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

“Teams probably don’t hone in on her, but the girl can rebound,” Howie said. “That’s another player stepping up in ways maybe you don’t notice.”

Phillipsburg slapped on a trapping press in the fourth quarter that forced points off turnovers until the Monarchs adjusted to the pressure.

“We just got ourselves in too much of a hurry,” Howie said. “We called a timeout, settled them down.”

Howie thought the Monarchs could face the Panthers again in the postseason.

“I told them we’re going to face Phillipsburg again, and they’re going to be ready for us,” Howie said.

However, Friday’s win should provide a boost for the Monarchs, too.

“They know they can win,” Howie said. “They know they can play with the best of them.”

TMP boys 57, Phillipsburg 44

Sophomore Dylan Werth is still listed at 6-foot-6, but the Monarch forward has grown as a player during the course of the season.

Werth dominated inside in the second half of Friday night’s game, scoring a career-high 25 points to go with nine rebounds. At one point in the third quarter, Werth scored eight straight points.

“He’s definitely gotten a lot more effective,” TMP coach Bill Meagher said. “He certainly has become a better player as the season has gone on. I still think we’re not anywhere near what he is capable of being.”

TMP (14-4 overall, 8-1 MCL) trailed 14-8 after the first quarter but outscored the Panthers 19-6 in the second period to take a 27-20 halftime lead. The Monarchs poured it on in the third, outsourcing Phillipsburg 18-5 for a 47-25 lead.

Senior guard Jackson Schulte added 22 points for the Monarchs.

“I thought Jackson helped us a lot on the perimeter with his 3-point shots and drives,” Meagher said.

Senior point guard Lucas Lang drew the defensive assignment on the Panthers’ standout point guard, senior Ty Sides, who was held to eight points. Lang added eight assists.

“We’re really blessed to have Lucas Lang,” Meagher said. “He is our defensive stopper this year. … It was a lot of fun to watch him guard tonight.”

Phillipsburg (7-9, 4-5) got 12 points from junior Joel Ford and 10 from senior Kagen Keeten.

Meagher said the win helps TMP in the fight for postseason positioning.

“We’re trying to become the No. 1 seed in the sub-state,” Meagher said. “This helps us with that.”

TMP steps out of league play Tuesday, traveling to Great Bend.