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After successful NAIA debut, Thomas More women feature talented backcourt, trio of impact transfers

By Don Owen
NKyTribune sports editor

After capturing the women’s basketball NCAA Division III national championship in 2019, Thomas More embarked on a new journey last season. The Saints athletics program transitioned from the NCAA to the NAIA, a move that included a number of new challenges.

For the women’s basketball team, it meant a rugged schedule in the Mid-South Conference. Thomas More, however, adjusted and posted a 22-10 overall record. The Saints also advanced to the championship game of the Mid-South Conference Tournament, knocking off top-seeded Campbellsville along the way and finished with a No. 21 national ranking in the NAIA poll.

Thomas More guard Courtney Hurst averaged 12.8 points per game last season as a freshman. (MSC photo)

Thomas More earned a berth in the NAIA Tournament, but then another unexpected situation — the COVID-19 pandemic — resulted in the cancellation of the event.

How would Thomas More have fared in the NAIA Tournament? That question will never be answered, but the youthful Saints had shown great progress since the start of the season. Thomas More also brought a championship pedigree from the NCAA, where the Saints captured three national titles (2015, 2016, 2019) in five years.

Thomas More started two freshmen (Zoie Barth and Courtney Hurst) in the backcourt and received quality minutes from a third freshman (Summer Secrist) most of the season. Barth earned Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year honors after averaging 12.8 points per game.

Barth shot 85.8 percent from the charity stripe and knocked down 37.2 percent of her 3-pointers. The Highlands High School graduate also averaged 4.9 rebounds per contest.

Hurst, a Conner High School graduate, averaged 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game with 45 steals. She scored a career-high 29 points and tied the Thomas More single-game record by draining nine 3-pointers in a 72-69 win over then-No. 24 Montana Western on Dec. 19.

Secrist, a Scott High School graduate, averaged 6.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game.

The Saints also return starting guard Briana McNutt (6.6 ppg) to an experienced backcourt.

Taylor Clos averaged 6.8 points per contest last season for NKU. She scored 459 points in two years with the Norse. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Thomas More must replace graduated post player Emily Schultz, who earned NAIA honorable mention All-America accolades after averaging 14.8 points per game last season. She finished her career ninth in school history with 1,326 points and seventh with 738 rebounds.

But head coach Jeff Hans brought in an outstanding recruiting class for this season, a group that includes three impact transfers in Taylor Clos (Northern Kentucky University), Emily Simon (Charleston) and Kenzie Schwarber (Morehead State).

Clos, a Campbell County High School graduate, saw action in 26 games last season at NKU and averaged 6.8 points per contest. She netted a season-high 19 points at lllinois-Chicago on Jan. 11 and scored in double figures seven times.

Clos scored 459 points in two seasons with the Norse. She also buried a total of 78 shots from 3-point range and collected 49 steals.

Simon averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season at Charleston, which competes at the NCAA Division II level. The 5-foot-11 guard started 27 times and dished out 64 assists. Simon also made 77.8 percent of her free throws and shot 43.2 percent from the field.

Hans also landed Simon Kenton High School graduate Maggie Jones — who scored more than 1,500 career points — to add even more depth on the perimeter. Jones earned 8th Region Player of the Year honors last season.

Hans, entering his 10th season as head coach, has guided Thomas More to a 229-21 record (.916). That includes six conference regular-season titles, seven conference tournament titles and eight national tournament berths.

Thomas More begins the season Nov. 3 by playing host to Indiana East at 6 p.m. in the Connor Convocation Center. Four days later, Indiana Wesleyan visits Thomas More for a 1 p.m. contest.

Thomas More is ranked No. 14 nationally in the NAIA preseason poll.

Jeff Hans has guided Thomas More to a 229-21 record (.916), six conference regular-season titles, seven conference tournament titles and eight national tournament berths. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Don Owen is sports editor of the Northern Kentucky Tribune. Contact him at don@nkytrib.com and follow him on Twitter at @dontribunesport.

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