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TMP boys fall in thriller -- girls roll

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

When the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' basketball team fell in an early hole to Larned on Thursday, it rallied back to briefly take the lead before half. Then the Monarchs fell into yet another hole, this one even larger, only to rally again and force overtime.

Unfortunately for TMP, the team's final rally attempt came up short, resulting in a 73-71 overtime loss to the Indians at the Hays Middle School gym.  

"I just told the boys, 'If you got any points for putting a mark in the 'L' column, then this was a gem,' " TMP coach Joe Hertel said. "What an amazing effort. I'm just so disappointed for them. They played beyond the call of duty. It just didn't work out in the end."

Despite trailing by seven points with less than two minutes to play, TMP (9-8, 4-2 MCAA) found a way to get within a basket with just seconds left in regulation. A missed 3-point attempt by TMP sophomore Jared Vitztum ended in the hands of senior Ryan Mayorga, whose short, desperation shot at the buzzer bounced around the rim and fell in to force the overtime period tied at 65.

The Monarchs found themselves in a similar situation at the end of overtime, trailing by two with 3.7 seconds to play and the ball at midcourt.

This time the Larned defense did a better job on the inbound pass, forcing TMP senior Jordan Gottschalk to take a contested and off balance 3-pointer at the buzzer, which never came close.

The win clinched the Mid Central Activities Association title for Larned (11-7, 5-0 MCAA), ranked No. 9 in Class 4A Division II, in the final year of the conference's existence. It also gave the Indians the season sweep of TMP after beating the Monarchs handedly on Jan. 7 in Larned, 78-61.

"It took one more basket is what it took. They did a great job. It was a great rivalry game. Kind of a great way to end the MCAA," Larned coach Don Zimmerman said.

"I thought there were numerous times where I looked up and we got a little separation --  six, eight, 10 points --  and I thought, 'OK, now we are finally where we needed to be.' And I'll be darned, they would fight back and hit some tough shots and make a run on us. That's a rivalry. That's the way rivalry games go."

Larned went on a 10-2 run to close out the first quarter and led 22-13 after eight minutes. But by halftime TMP's deficit was only 32-29 and the Monarchs had taken brief leads at 26-25 and 29-27.

A Vitztum three-point play tied the game at 34 early in the third quarter before Larned went on a 10-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at 44-34 with less than four minutes to play in the period. The Indians led 46-39 going into the fourth quarter.

"I don't go into games saying we need to win this game or maybe we will lose this game. I just say, 'Guys, we need to play well enough to give ourselves a chance at the end,' " Hertel said. "I'm just disappointed we weren't able to pull it out. The effort and the sheer number of big plays that were made over probably the last 11 minutes of the game were worthy of a 'W.' "

TMP opened the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run to get within two points at 48-46. Larned would collect itself enough to push its lead back out to 62-54 with three minutes to play in regulation.

Larned missed two of its three free-throw attempts in the final 23.7 seconds, allowing Mayorga the chance to hit the game-tying field goal as time expired.

Larned had another chance to close the game out in overtime, but senior Easton Palmer missed two free throws with 8.6 seconds to play with the Indians up by two points. The rebound went to TMP, which called a timeout to set up the final play, only to have Gottschalk's shot come up short.

Gottschalk and Vitztum each finished with 18 points to lead TMP, with senior Kameron Schmidt getting 10. It was the play of Gottschalk more than anyone that inspired the Monarchs' repeated rallies.

"My hats off to Jordan. I thought that young man, he found a part of Jordan Gottschalk tonight that he's never exposed before. The boy was just an animal," Hertel said. "There was effort everywhere across the bench. I'm just so proud of their effort, yet I feel badly for them because they deserved to go away a winner. But I know they are winners deep inside."

Larned's Brayden Smith led all players with 22 points, with Palmer adding 15 and Grant Unruh 11. Larned had as many free-throw makes (26) as TMP had attempts.

TMP will travel to Plainville (16-2), No. 10 in Class 2A, tonight for its fourth game in five days.

Second quarter run leads to easy win for TMP girls

When freshman Megan Koenigsman -- the top scoring threat for the Thomas More Prep-Marian girls' basketball team -- went to the bench in the second quarter against Larned on Thursday with two fouls, it could have spelled disaster for the Monarchs.

Instead, Koenigsman's absence allowed for other players to step up, including fellow freshman Madyson Koerner, and TMP (6-11, 2-4 MCAA) used a 15-0 run to cruise past the Indians 55-42.

"When Megan got her second foul and I took her out, we were able to play ahead through that," TMP coach Rose McFarland said. "We took the lead and never looked back. That was important for us. This team, they made some runs but we fought them off. It was good to get that win tonight."

Larned (4-13, 1-4 MCAA) won the first meeting between the teams 44-40 in overtime on Jan. 7 in Larned. In that game, TMP was 2 of 26 from 3-point range and didn't score in the overtime period.

But on Thursday, the Monarchs were 6 of 13 from behind the arc and shot 52 percent from the field (16 of 31). TMP scored 20 points in the second quarter and 18 in the third quarter and led by as much as 22 points in the second half.

"The last time we played them we didn't shoot very well from the field," McFarland said. "I just thought the intensity was there tonight --  defensively and offensively. (Koerner) came off the bench and really sparked us again. I was real pleased with the whole team's effort. This is our third game this week and I don't know you could really tell."

The win ends a two game losing streak for the Monarchs. TMP lost 58-43 at Ellinwood on Monday and 54-40 against Hoisington on Tuesday. After those two lackluster performances, McFarland was happy to see the Monarchs bounce back and handle Larned.

Koerner led all players with 15 points, 10 of which came in the Monarchs' second quarter run. Koenigsman, limited to two points in the first half, finished with 10. She hit two key 3-pointers to open the second half to put TMP out of harm's reach.

The closest Larned got in the fourth quarter was 52-40 with less than two minutes to play, part of a 12-2 run for the Indians. Maci Perez led Larned with 13 points.

"I think both teams improved a lot. And intensity, this game was different than it was last time," McFarland said. "In the end we pulled away. It was nice to be able to rotate some other kids in there and get us a little rest."

TMP will travel to Plainville (5-13) tonight, its fourth game in five days. The girls' game will start at 6 p.m., boys' game to follow.