Monarch boys reach state with 68-51 win over Minneapolis

Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News

It’s going to look a little different this year, but the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys basketball team is headed back to the state tournament for the second time in three years. The Monarchs used a big second half to run away with a 68-51 victory over Minneapolis in Saturday’s championship game in Class 3A sub-state action at Norton.

“Really excited for the guys,” TMP coach Bill Meagher said. “They really worked so hard all season.”

TMP (20-4) will play at Hugoton (21-2) on Tuesday in the first round of the 3A season finale. Hugoton was a 59-54 winner over top seed Lakin on Saturday at the Larned sub-state for its 21st straight victory. TMP handed Hugoton its last loss, at the season-opening Hays City Shoot-Out. The state semifinals and championship game will be at Hutchinson. There will be no third-place game; each semifinal loser will receive a third-place trophy and medals.

“We’re excited to be in that game,” Meagher said. “It’s a little bit different going to their place.”

The Monarchs led by six points at halftime Saturday, then outscored the Lions 27-11 in the third quarter to take a 56-34 lead. Minneapolis, playing in its first sub-state final since 2011, kept it close at halftime thanks to the scoring of senior forward Spencer Davidson, who netted 13 of his team-high 17 points before the break.

“Jace Wentling and Gavin Unrein did a great job defending him,” Meagher said. “Part of it, we wore him out a little bit; I think part of it, they started putting up some threes.”

TMP big man Dylan Werth got into early foul trouble, and Meagher decided to sit his 6-foot-6 sophomore for the entire second quarter.

“At that point we had the lead,” Meagher said. “I told them we were going to protect him as long as we were able to maintain a lead.”

Werth scored just two of his 17 points in the first half, but senior guard Jackson Schulte picked up the slack, getting 14 of his game-high 20 points before intermission. Senior point guard Lucas Lang finished with 15 points.

“Tonight, we had Dylan down with foul trouble, and Jackson stepped in there,” Meagher said.

Meagher said the coaching staff at the beginning of the year believed the team could go far.

“We told the kids there’s an opportunity to be a special team if we keep working,” Meagher said.