On Jan. 17, Norton girls delivered a superlative effort in the Mid-Continent League tournament semifinals against Thomas More Prep-Marian at WaKeeney-Trego Community High School. The Bluejays scored the game’s first 17 points, had a running clock and won by 30.
In Friday’s rematch, TMP delivered an upset victory, 37-34, versus the Bluejays in a MCL home contest at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
The Monarchs, unranked in Class 3A, improved to 11-4 and remained perfect at home and in conference regular season play. TMP has defeated three ranked teams at home this winter: WaKeeney-Trego, Abilene last Friday and Norton.
“It was a tough loss at WaKeeney, but we looked at it as ‘How can we improve?’” coach Rose McFarland said. “We came in with a new positive attitude. We knew that we could play with them, and the girls showed up tonight and did just that.”
Norton, up four spots this week to No. 3 in Class 3A, dropped to 13-2, 5-1 in conference and suffered its first loss against a Kansas squad this winter.
“They played kind of like we played the first game,” Norton coach George Rossi said. “They had everything going their way, and we didn’t.”
The Monarchs improved to 6-0 in MCL action with three regular season conference contests left. TMP has not dropped a regular season non-tournament league game since Dec. 11, 2015.
As well, Norton and TMP are the frontrunners in the Hoisington sub-state. After Friday, Rossi told his players there will likely be a third meeting in the postseason.
“The league is so much more balanced this year, so you’ve got to come, show up every game, and that’s what we talk about, we talk about showing up every night,” McFarland said.
In the 59-29 win versus the Monarchs, the Bluejays shot 55 percent and had 18 points from senior Taryn Kuhn, along with 14 from senior Hadley Hauser and 10 by sophomore Tessa Hauser. As well, Norton effectively pressed the Monarchs and forced 16 turnovers, eight more than the Bluejays.
This time, TMP limited Norton’s offense and continually broke the Bluejays’ press. Norton shot 29 percent.
“We knew that the first time we played them, that it was a very exceptional game on our part, and play against what you would say a normal game, it was going to be a lot closer,” Rossi said. “It’s always hard to come down here and try to get a win at the Fieldhouse.
“I thought they did a good job of attacking us offensively whereas the first time we played them we kind of had them back on our heels a little bit, they were a little tentative,” he added. “They weren’t that way at all.”
Norton, with an advantage in size and length, led 8-2 early, 10-6 after the first quarter and 14-12 at halftime. Norton went 1 of 11 shooting in the second quarter was 6 of 26 (23 percent) overall early in the second half.
“We handled their press this time,” McFarland said. “Last time, they just killed us on the press. This time we handled the press, and defensively, I thought we did a much better job helping on the post defense.”
In the third quarter, TMP senior Emily Schippers gave the Monarchs their first lead.
“We just tried to spread it out a little more,” McFarland said of the Monarchs’ press offense. “First time, we were all crammed in one little spot, so we tried to spread it out, and just gave us some more opportunities to move the ball.”
Norton led 17-14 when Schippers collected a pass from senior Jillian Lowe, had a good screen from freshman Emilee Lane and sunk a jumper.
Then, she drove in, earned the foul and made two free throws for an 18-17 advantage with 5:13 left in the quarter.
“She just took over the game offensively,” McFarland said.
Next, junior Adell Riedel made a great pass into the post around a defender to Schippers, who made a strong post move for a basket and a 20-17 lead.
“Attacked the basket a lot better than we did, and their defense was a lot better than it was the first time,” Rossi said.
Schippers did not score in the first half and finished with team-best 13 points. The 5-9 Schippers can play both guard and post and shoot inside and outside, which caused the Bluejays’ problems.
“She was just hard for them to guard, I think because she can do so many different things,” McFarland said.
Norton tied the game at 20 entering the fourth quarter, but TMP never trailed again. The Monarchs had 20 turnovers, five more than Norton.
TMP was plus-5 on the glass. The Monarchs have no starter above 5-11, while Norton has both Hauser sisters at 6-2. Hadley finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Kuhn tallied 14 points. Lowe, known for her defense, delivered another strong effort on Kuhn.
“A lot of the shots that we normally make in the game weren’t falling in,” Rossi said.
In the fourth quarter, Riedel sunk a key 3 for a 29-24 advantage with 4:44 left. Norton cut the deficit to 33-32 and then 35-34 with 31.6 seconds remaining.
The Bluejays pressured Riedel in the backcourt, who managed to pass to Lowe to cross midcourt. Norton eventually fouled Riedel with 6.2 seconds, and she made both free throws for the final margin. Hadley Hauser’s desperation 3 fell well short at the buzzer.
“Sometimes games like this, they are good,” Rossi said. “I mean, ‘I told the girls just in there, what we take away from here is the important thing, it’s not the win or the loss.’ It’s what we learn from it, so hopefully we will learn a lot from it.”
TMP boys defeat Norton
The Monarch boys led by double figures in the first half and delivered a 55-42 win against Norton. TMP sophomore Lucas Lang had 13 points after seven total points in the last two games.
“I was real excited how they came out tonight,” TMP coach Bill Meagher said.
The Monarchs ended a three-game losing streak, stayed perfect at home in league play and moved to 9-7, 4-2 MCL. Norton dropped to 7-9, 2-4. Senior point guard Ryan Karlin paced the Monarchs with 14 points, and Norton junior Carter Jones tallied 13.