TMP-Marian girls outlast Norton in double OT to stay on pace for MCL title; TMP boys roll
The game plan for the Monarch girls took a hit just minutes before Friday's pivotal Mid-Continent League matchup with Norton.
Thomas More Prep-Marian sophomore Jaci VonLintel suffered an ankle injury during pre-game warmups and was unable to play.
Without the benefit of VonLintel's versatility in the lineup, TMP coach Rose McFarland told her starters to brace for a heavy workload.
"I just told them, 'You're going to have play a lot of minutes,' " McFarland said. "... (The injury) changes (the game plan), but you know what, you just got to be flexible and you just got to step up for whatever adversity you see. It makes the team a little tougher if you can handle that."
The Monarchs exuded the toughness McFarland was talking about, outlasting Norton 52-47 in double overtime at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
The win put TMP on the brink of at least a share of the MCL championship, which the Monarchs can clinch on Tuesday night at home against Plainville. TMP moved to 15-3 overall and 9-1 in the league, sitting in a three-way tie with Phillipsburg and Trego atop the standings in MCL play.
A free throw from Megan Hamel with 5.4 seconds left helped send it to overtime. After each team scored five in the first extra session, TMP outscored Norton 5-0 in the second OT on five free throws.
"The girls just sucked it up and played," McFarland said. "I said, 'This is fun. You get a chance to play against a good, quality team, go play.' And we did enough to win."
Already down VonLintel, the Monarchs had to close things out without junior forward Emilee Lane, who fouled out with 2:57 left in the first overtime. Junior Jessica Herrman replaced Lane.
"Jess came in and gave me some big minutes at the end," Herrmann said. "With Emilee fouling out, she just jumped right up and got in there and got rebounds and played good defense. She was big."
TMP's Hamel, Sophia Balthazor and Kassidi Yost and played the entire game, and Kyleigh Allen nearly played the whole way, except for a quick break at the end of the first quarter when she was spelled by Hannah Garcia.
But the Monarchs didn't look gassed down the stretch.
"When it's a close game like that you just go to think positive and not think about being tired," McFarland added. "You just got to go play."
TMP led by as much as 11 early in the second quarter but Norton was within five (21-16) at halftime. The Monarchs led 30-29 heading into the fourth.
A bucket by Hannah Bailey put the Bluejays up two with two minutes left in regulation. Up one inside 20 seconds left, Norton missed two front ends of one-and-ones. Hamel then came up with a steal and the Bluejays were whistled for a foul on Hamel with 5.4 seconds left.
Hamel missed the first but hit the second free throw, and the Bluejays couldn't get a shot off before time expired.
It went to a second OT after two TMP shots bounced out in the final seconds of the first extra session.
Yost hit two free throws to start double overtime. Balthazor's foul shot made it a three-point game with 1:07 left.
Norton and TMP each missed two free throws to keep the Monarch lead at three. After two missed Norton shots, Balthazor pulled down a rebound and helped seal it with two free throws.
"They were putting pressure on us and we were able to go to the free throw line and hit enough free throws to win," McFarland said. "Gutsy win. I thought both teams played hard."
With Lane out of the game, McFarland credited her guards for battling on the glass in the second overtime.
"Sometimes they just rely on the posts to get the rebounds but they came inside and they got some big rebounds at the end of the game," she said. "Kass held her own tonight. She got some rebounds and played excellent defense inside.
"It hurts when you have one on the bench, and then you put two on there, but the girls stepped up. That's what they need to do, and they did it."
Hamel led TMP with 14 points, while Lane added 13 and Balthazor 12.
Tessa Hauser paced Norton with 15 and Addison Brooks chipped 11 for the Bluejays, who fell off pace for the lead league at 6-2 in MCL play. Norton is 13-5 overall.
TMP was set for a quick turnaround, playing at Southeast of Saline on Saturday. The Monarchs will play host to Plainville on Tuesday night with a chance to clinch a share of the league title.
"I think the MCL is tough," McFarland said. "Every night out you've got to be ready. We've got good teams that are beating each other, and for us to stay focused throughout the whole season in the MCL, I think that's a credit to them because it's not an easy feat."
Allen was named TMP's 2021 Sweetheart Queen and Trenton Rome was Sweetheart King.
TMP boys 69, Norton 54
The Monarchs' senior backcourt paved the way, with Jackson Schulte sparking TMP offensively and Lucas Lang holding things down on the defensive end.
Schulte scored 11 straight during a first-quarter spurt that helped get the Monarchs firing on all cylinders. TMP led 36-23 at halftime and opened up a 23-point advantage in the third frame.
TMP coach Bill Meagher credited Lang's defense on the perimeter for helping keep the Bluejays in check.
"I thought both our seniors leaders took care of us the first half," Meagher said. "Jackson did the scoring part and Lucas shut down their best scorer and did a great job with that. Lucas was setting the tone on defense and Jackson was finding some offensive looks."
Schulte finished with a game-high 18 points for TMP, while Dylan Werth and Gavin Unrein added 10 points apiece for the Monarchs (15-4, 9-1 MCL)
Werth battled foul trouble and picked up his fifth personal early in the fourth, but helped TMP break away with eight points in the third quarter.
"Definitely when he gets in a flow and a rhythm, he is really, really tough to guard," Meagher said. "As they put more focus on him, our shooters get more and more open looks. It's definitely nice to have him the floor."
TMP's bench brought the Monarchs home, giving the starters a needed rest with another game on tap Saturday at Southeast of Saline.
"We play back-to-back so we tried to get some guys out a little early, but also the guys that have a great JV game, they get an opportunity to get in and see what they can do at the varsity level," Meagher said. "I thought they did a great job of defending what was built and did a good job finishing the game."
Ryan Schrum and Jonah Ruder each scored 11 for Norton.