Thomas More Prep-Marian led by 15 after the first quarter Tuesday versus WaKeeney-Trego Community. The Monarchs shot 7 of 13 from the field, including 4 of 6 from beyond the arc, and didn’t commit a turnover or a foul.
Standout junior guard Jackson Schulte, who averages 17.6 points per contest, sunk a pair of treys off passes from sophomore Bryce Seib and senior Brady Kreutzer.
TMP showcased its trademark depth and pushed the pace. Five players scored. Six-foot-7 junior forward Carson Jacobs helped hold WaKeeney to just 2 of 7 shooting. Coach Bill Meagher believed it was as close to a perfect quarter that TMP has shown all year.
The Monarchs quickly upped the lead to 18 early in the second, before the Golden Eagles closed to six midway in the third. Still, TMP eventually earned a 66-49 victory in the Mid-Continent League tournament quarterfinals at Al Billinger Fieldhouse.
“I wasn’t pleased that we let it get back within six, but I was pleased with our poise,” Meagher said. “We could have crumbled. We could have felt sorry for ourselves, and the guys came together, and they just slowly stretched that back out.”
The Monarchs average 5.4 made treys a game and finished with a season-best nine on 19 attempts. Schulte, one of the state’s leading shooters, finished with 21 points and six rebounds. He has eight double-figure games. Senior Ryan Stoecklein, back from injury, tallied 17. TMP had four total turnovers.
The Monarchs have ranked as high as seventh in 3A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association, though was unranked since Dec. 16. On Tuesday, the Monarchs bumped back to tenth. TMP has not lost since its season opener and improved to 8-1.
The third-seeded Monarchs moved into Friday’s semifinals at Plainville High School. Top-seeded Hoxie, ranked sixth in 2A, suffered a 42-40 loss to eighth-seeded Phillipsburg.
“This was a good game for us, and one that we needed, and I was impressed with what they did to finish that,” Meagher said.
Trego has matched last year’s win total from a 7-13 season and moved to 7-4. The Golden Eagles, which have not had a winning record since 2008-09, are 0-8 versus TMP since ’08. Last Tuesday, Trego lost, 65-44, to the Monarchs at home, in a game where Jacobs finished with 18 points, and the Monarchs sunk one trey.
A week later, Trego had picked up two more wins versus Ness City and Smith Center, but TMP hadn’t played again. The Monarchs, which led all game, immediately took a 3-0 lead on a trey from Kreutzer 25 seconds into the game. Then, senior Lucas Lang sunk a floater for a 5-2 advantage.
WaKeeney sophomore forward Charlie Russell, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, tallied a basket to cut the margin to 5-4. Then, TMP ran off a 17-0 run. Kreutzer, known for his burst, grabbed a defensive rebound and went full court for a basket.
Another fast break yielded a score off an offensive rebound from Stoecklein. Schulte’s pair of 3s pushed the lead to 15-4. Stoecklein sunk a trey from the top of the key for an 18-4 margin. Seib, off the bench, ended the quarter with a free throw.
“It was really nice to see Jackson hit some shots, too, and I think Stoecklein hit some shots in there,” Meagher said. “And Carson was getting some stuff, and so it was just like everything was hitting, and you knew they would make adjustments and make it harder, and they did.”
In the second quarter, Kreutzer delivered a steal. He tallied an assist on a 3 from Lang to lengthen the lead to 22-4. Stoecklein followed with a three in transition for a 25-7 advantage and forced a Trego timeout with 6:49 left in the first half. At that point, TMP was 6 of 8 on 3s.
“Brady sees the floor better than most guys I have ever been around,” Meagher said.
Last season, Stoecklein opened as a starter for the first three games. He tore two ligaments in his left ankle and missed virtually the rest of the regular season. In the first round of the 3A state tournament, Stoecklein tallied 14 points off the bench as No. 8 seeded TMP defeated No. 1 Maur Hill, 73-51.
As well, Jacobs had suffered a concussion in mid-to-late January last year. In the summer, Stoecklein was able to get his ligament finally fixed, and missed the season-opening three-game Hays City Shoot-Out.
“Our depth is one of the best things that we have going for us, and it’s just really nice,” Meagher said. “Part of too is you only get so many high school games, and to see Stoecklein back out there playing is fun for us, because he loves basketball, and to see these guys all healthy and competing, it’s fun to be a part of.”
In the last six contests, Stoecklein has produced games of 15, 19, 10 and 17 points. Jacobs, a Newman University baseball signee, averages 13.2 points per contest. He finished with eight points, six rebounds and a block. TMP was plus-10 on the glass.
“Part of it is he is just feeling out the game again a little bit, too,” Meagher said of Stoecklein. “But it’s just exciting to see a guy back on the floor playing. … I know that Trego has got a guy with a concussion. You just hate to see guys injured. It’s just part of sports, but you just hate to see it.”
Trego, paced by five treys and 17 points from senior Carter Minson, closed to 29-18 at halftime and 33-27 with 3:56 left in the quarter. Schulte sunk a trey 40 seconds later. The basket ended a 0 of 7 run from long range for TMP.
“I am actually trying to get them to shoot 3s a lot of times,” Meagher said. “Because they miss a shot, and they think it’s the end of the world, and it’s like, ‘You are shooting 50 percent, we have got to put up some 3s.’ So I understand that it seems like the end of the world when you miss a shot, but you are going to miss some shots, and we need those guys to put those up. They are shooting a high enough percentage. Volume matters.”