HAYS, Kan. (CIK) Thomas More Prep-Marian’s defense heavily focused on Abilene’s lone seniors, Sydney Burton and Hannah Willey, a Washburn University commit. The duo combines for 68 percent of Abilene’s scoring and helped the Cowgirls to a 10-1 start and No. 5 ranking in Class 4A.
The TMP girls defeated Abilene 44-35 on Friday, January 25, 2019. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)
TMP sophomore Kyleigh Allen played an excellent game on Willey, and Monarch senior Jillian Lowe delivered another sterling defensive effort. Abilene often reaches the free throw line, and the Monarchs didn’t permit a foul shot until the second half. TMP had strong help defense and limited Abilene to 30 percent shooting.
Led by a big third quarter, the Monarchs’ all-around squelching defensive effort led to 44-35 non-conference victory Friday at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
TMP, unranked in Class 3A, moved to 9-4 and stayed perfect at home. The Monarchs have defeated two ranked teams, both at the Fieldhouse, with a win earlier this month versus WaKeeney-Trego Community, current No. 4 in Class 2A.
“Our defense really stepped it up this evening,” coach Rose McFarland said. “Kyleigh Allen did an awesome job on Hannah, and Jillian was just really an awesome defender, but not just those two. Adell (Riedel) did a good job on their point guard, just contained her, and then the other girls were in help so much, and I was really proud of our defense.”
Abilene had been under 41 points only once previously, a 30-21 victory versus rival Clay Center in North Central Kansas League play on Jan. 11. On Friday, the Cowgirls had their lowest shooting percentage of the winter and finished with 19 turnovers, which tied for its worst in 2018-19.
TMP kept the Cowgirls without a field goal for more than nine minutes in a stretch that covered the last part of the first half and nearly all of the third quarter. TMP shot 45 percent from the field.
“Flat,” Abilene coach Molly Burton said. “And then we forced some stuff on offense, because we were out of sync. I mean, it’s just kind of one of those things like, there’s losses, and then there is bad losses. And I think this is a bad loss for us. Just how well we have been playing, I think we should have won that game.”
Willey met her season average with 16 points, though had four points late when the Monarchs had built a big lead. TMP led by 18 midway through the fourth quarter.
“It was amazing,” Allen said of guarding Willey. “It makes me better as a player, and as a team, we all played great.”
Burton, who averages 15.5 points a contest, battled foul trouble all game and had just three points on 1 of 4 shooting. She eventually fouled out with 3:24 left. Allen had gotten kneed in the thigh earlier in the week, and McFarland was uncertain of her status. Allen bounced back after several hard falls Friday.
“I don’t worry about the negatives,” Allen said. “And think positive all the way through the game.”
The five starters of senior Emily Schippers, freshman post Emilee Lane, Lowe, Allen and Riedel, rarely came out of the game. McFarland didn’t sub until the second quarter.
“They got a little tired at times, but they really gutted it out and stayed out there and played hard,” McFarland said. “Abilene is a really good ball team, so things came together tonight.”
TMP led 9-2 early as Schippers scored seven points, many on drives inside when she split the Cowgirl defense.
“I saw an opportunity with a wide spread 1-3 to create some plays by going to the middle,” Schippers said. “And it evidently worked.”
Schippers has battled injuries that have gotten progressively worse. She played with her left hand and wrist taped for precautionary measures. Schippers said the injury bothers her after the game, but during the contest “adrenaline takes over.” She finished with a team-high 16 points and six rebounds.
“Not to take it away from them, but I am going to blame it on our defense,” Abilene coach Molly Burton said. “We have never played that poorly on defense. We have never allowed teams to drive around us and get in the paint that much. I mean, it was just insane. We have never seen that out of our players before.
“We asked them to come out with intensity, because we thought our junior varsity came out with the best intensity that they have had all season, and our varsity came out with the opposite,” she added.
Abilene tied the game at nine at the end of the first quarter and led 11-9 with 4 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first half. The Cowgirls held a 15-13 lead at intermission. However, the Monarchs quickly gained control in the third quarter.
Down 16-13 early in the third, the Monarchs went on a 15-0 run.
“The intensity was really good in the first half,” Schippers said. “Something that we have struggled with, so when we came into the locker room and had a good talk with coach, that just elevated that even higher.”
TMP grabbed six of the quarter’s first seven rebounds, including an offensive rebound from Lane that led to a 3 from Riedel for a 20-16 advantage. Overall, TMP went 3 of 5 from long range.
“When we settled down and looked for what’s there instead of trying to force it, we are a much better team,” McFarland said.
Abilene missed its first six shots of the second half and went 2 of 10 overall. TMP held an 11-4 advantage on the glass, and forced five turnovers during the quarter. Additionally, the Monarchs allowed many of the Cowgirls’ supplementary players to have open shots. Junior Beth Holmes delivered 10 points, but the Cowgirls went 1 of 9 from long range.
“Here’s what I saw from our young’ns tonight, is they didn’t shoot the ball when they were open,” Burton said. “And that’s unheard of when we have never said don’t shoot the ball.”
In the third, Lowe had two steals, and Schippers and Lowe had one. Lowe created another turnover. In the Monarchs’ run, Willey had one field attempt, a long 2-pointer that missed.
“We really did an incredible job on that, because they go to the free throw line a lot, too,” McFarland said. “They drive in, and the refs were calling fouls a lot tonight, but they just couldn’t turn the corner, and we were there.”