CLIFTON — St. Thomas More has a collection of good basketball players, but they’re not drama queens.
The state’s top-ranked Class 2A girls’ basketball team ended the drama early in Monday’s sectional semifinal showdown with No. 10 Clinton. STM scored the first 18 points in less than 5 minutes and beat the Maroons 89-58 at Clifton Central High School.
If this were a performance for the Academy, Clinton coach Josh Williams would support an Oscar nomination.
“Our kids were shocked by the pace, the size, the speed and the athleticism of St. Thomas More,” the Clinton coach said. “St. Thomas More is an incredible team.
“They have an excellent chance to be cutting down the nets (after the state finals). They got us in a hole and we had to fight back from the start. They are fantastic.”
Randa Harshbarger jump-started the Sabers, collecting five of her game-high seven steals in the first quarter. She had assists on two of the team’s four baskets.
“Our kids’ defensive ball-pressure was as strong as we’ve had all year,” said STM coach Chris Mennig, whose 29-2 team has a 10-game winning streak. “They imposed their will on their guards from the outset.
“Randa and Jade (Brinkoetter) are our engines.”
Freshman Tori McCoy moved to within one double-double of tying the school record (17) for a season. She had a game-high 27 points and 11 rebounds, eight on the offensive end.
“She is relentless on the glass,” Williams said. “She plays like she’s in college. Sometimes players with that much talent have a tendency to get lazy, but she plays hard.”
Mennig said what pleased him most about McCoy was how she responded after getting an early offensive foul.
“I was impressed with her composure despite some of their defensive schemes,” he said. “She could have shown her age, but she didn’t. That’s what I’m excited about. She likes big games.”
“She picked up her game tonight,” said Lexi Wallen, who scored 11 first-quarter points and ended with 20.
Erica Wallen also reached double figures for the Sabers with 13. Harshbarger had eight points, six rebounds and five assists.
Morgan Hickman and Haley Toohill led Clinton (25-6), which tied its school record for season wins, with 12 points apiece. Hickman had nine rebounds.
“Morgan’s toughness rubs off on the other kids,” Williams said.