Monarchs end run in 3A semis with loss to Hesston
HUTCHINSON — Spearheaded by seniors Jackson Schulte and Lucas Lang, the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys did their best to counter a sensational performance from Hesston star Cason Richardson in Friday's Class 3A semifinal.
But Richardson was too much for the Monarchs, finishing with a line of 36 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in Hesston's 64-55 win at Hutchinson Sports Arena.
The Monarchs led periodically in the game and were within two in the fourth quarter but couldn't overtake the Swathers down the stretch.
"I thought all our guys played as hard as they possibly could," TMP coach Bill Meagher said. "I thought we played as well as we could play. I think we made a few mistakes here or there, but that's a team playing as hard as they can, trying to make some things happen. I think our guys have no shame from this game. They did the best they could possibly do and I'm proud of what they did."
Hesston (22-1) moved on to Saturday night's title game to meet Galena. With no third-place games being held this year, TMP ended 21-5 and will share third place with Rock Creek.
Richardson, a 6-foot-3 junior, scored 19 points in the first half to propel Hesston to a 30-27 lead before adding 17 more after halftime. He went 12 of 18 from the field and 10 of 13 from the foul line.
"He's a big-time player, this is a big-time stage and he did a great job today," Meagher said. "We tried some different things defensively on him and it didn't seem like we could find the right thing. So just got to take your hat off and say they made a lot of good plays.
"On the flip side, I thought our guys answered back and continued to find a way to give themselves a chance."
TMP's senior backcourt of Schulte and Lang combined for 37 points. Schulte scored a team-high 23 points while Lang finished with 14, including three fourth-quarter 3-pointers to keep the Monarchs within striking distance.
It was an emotional week for Schulte, whose grandmother, Bonita Schulte, passed away on Monday, a day before TMP's quarterfinal game at Hugoton.
"Just impressed that he was able to go out there and play with a lot on his mind and play well," Meagher said. "Great teammate, great leader. For a young man to be going all that he went through, the highs and lows of this week, I thought he did a great job of continuing to be a team guy while going through the stuff that's going on in his personal life."
After Lang's last 3-pointer cut the deficit to 3, the Monarchs nearly got within a point with under two minutes left but Gavin Unrein's layup attempt bounced out, and Hesston scored on the other end to go up five. Bryce Seib pulled the Monarchs back within three with 1:34 left after hitting two free throws but the Swathers sealed it at the line in the final minute.
"It was one of those games where we needed a bounce or something to go our way and we didn't seem to be able to get anything down the stretch," Meagher said. "That's basketball."
Hesston won the battle on the boards convincingly, out-rebounding TMP 32-21.
"We knew coming into it how good of a rebounding team they were and how physical and athletic they were," Meagher said. "They're an impressive team. They're a really good team, probably one of the best we've seen all year."
The Monarchs were on the verge of taking a lead into halftime, leading 24-18 midway through the half and 27-23 with under two minutes left after Schulte hit a 3. But Hesston closed on a 7-0 run to take a three-point lead into the break.
"I thought there were a couple (key) stretches," Meagher said. "When Uncle Mo's sitting on your bench it's pretty fun, but I felt like he wasn't with us very much today. We just needed to stack up a few things and make some momentum plays to make a run as well."
The Monarchs, who had reeled off 12 straight wins before Friday, will lose four seniors, Lang, Schulte, Hayden Brown and Trenton Rome.
"Just so proud of these guys," Meagher said. "We were not a team that could've made it to a state tournament early on. We had some rough stretches and the guys dug in and really improved themselves and put themselves in a position for this.
"Today we're hurting but as we look back we're going to be excited about what this team accomplished. I don't think there were too many people that would have put us in this position at the beginning of the year. That didn't bother our guys, they just continued to fight and get better every day. Just super proud of the guys and hope that soon they'll be able to appreciate what they accomplished."