TMP girls return experience

Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News
Emilee Lane is one of five returning starters for TMP.

With five returning starters and a super sub off the bench, the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls basketball team looks to improve on last season’s 10-13 record.

“I’m very optimistic about our team,” said longtime Monarch coach Rose McFarland. “I had a very young team last year. We’re more experienced this year. We’re ready to play.”

TMP opens the season in the new-look tournament hosted by Hays High School. The 38th annual Gerald Mitchell Hays City Shootout is down to a four-team round robin and not the usual eight-team field, as COVID-19 has impacted schedules. All games will be at the Hays High gym. The Monarch girls will play Wichita-Life Prep at 3 p.m. Thursday followed by a 3 p.m. game Friday against Hugoton. TMP will play crosstown rival Hays High at 5 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s a different format, but we get to play our three games,” McFarland said. “I think the competition is going to be very tough.

“The kids like playing each other,” McFarland said of the HHS matchup. “We played them a couple years ago, both boys and girls. We played at Hays High; it was a packed house. It was a great environment. This year, it’s going to be different, though.”

Per guidelines set by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, no fans will be allowed at games until late January at the earliest.

“It’s going to be very different, but we’re thankful for the opportunity to play,” McFarland said. “That’s the times we’re in right now. It started with the state tournament last year. What a shock that was to everyone.”

McFarland hopes her squad looks different with another year’s worth of varsity experience. TMP will be led by 6-0 junior forward Emilee Lane, an all-MCL pick last year who averaged 9.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

“She works hard on the boards,” McFarland said of Lane, who grabbed 20 rebounds in a game last year. “She developed her game a little on the perimeter this summer. She’s a tough kid.”

The Monarchs also return 5-8 guard-forward Kyleigh Allen, the lone senior on the roster. Allen averaged 8.9 points per game and McFarland considers her the team’s best defensive player.

“She hustles all the time, can handle the ball, shoot the three,” McFarland said.

Also back in the starting lineup are 5-4 junior point guard Megan Hamel, 5-7 junior guard Sophia Balthazor and 5-9 junior forward Kassidi Yost. McFarland also is high on 5-11 sophomore guard-forward Jaci VonLintel, who contributed varsity minutes off the bench down the stretch last season.

“She can play everywhere; she needs to play every spot,” McFarland said of her court-savvy underclassman. “She’s going to be very helpful this year.”

McFarland said the team’s motto this season is “one team, one mission,” adding, “It’s time to play somebody.”