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Thomas More seeks to build on momentum from 26-7 campaign, challenge for Mid-South Conference title

NKyTribune staff

The best team in the Mid-South Conference this past February was not defending NAIA national champion Georgetown (Ky.) College.

No, that distinction belonged to Thomas More, which posted an 8-0 mark during that month and snapped Georgetown’s 32-game winning streak with a 73-71 road upset. Thomas More enjoyed an outstanding March as well, knocking off both Lindsey Wilson and the Cumberlands (Ky.) to advance to the Mid-South Conference championship game.

TMU center Ryan Batte averaged 13.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season. (MSC photo)

Georgetown defeated Thomas More for the Mid-South Conference title, but the Saints earned a berth to the NAIA nationals. The COVID-19 pandemic halted all postseason play, and Thomas More completed its return to the NAIA level with a 26-7 overall record.

Included in that 26-7 record was an 11-game winning streak that began with a 64-61 triumph over then-No. 14 Pikeville on Jan. 30, a buzzer-beating victory that ignited the Saints’ unbeaten February.

Thomas More’s Justin Ray was named Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year after guiding the Saints from the NCAA Division III level to the NAIA with a 26-win season.

Thomas More returns four starters this season, including NAIA honorable mention All-American Ryan Batte. The 6-foot-5 junior averaged 13.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season.

Batte, a graduate of Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, shot 53.2 percent from the field and made 79.2 percent of his free throws. He was also named first team All-Mid-South Conference.

In addition, the Saints welcome back sophomore forward/guard Reid Jolly, who was named Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year last season. Jolly averaged 14.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season.

Reid Jolly (right) was named Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year last season. (MSC photo)

Jolly netted a career-high 31 points during a win over Akron-Wayne and tied for the team lead with 20 blocked shots. The Campbell County High School product shot 50 percent from the field and added 24 steals.

The senior perimeter duo of Luke Rudy and Garren Bertsch is also for Thomas More. Rudy and Bertsch combined for 157 of the 275 team’s made 3-pointers last season. Rudy (12.8 point per game) knocked down 105 triples, while Bertsch (10.7 ppg) netted 52 from long range.

Other key returnees include Braden Connor, Keegan Saben and Noah Pack.

Thomas More also adds NCAA Division II transfer Logan Swackhammer, who averaged 4.2 points and 1.8 assists per game for Flagler (Fla.) last season. Swackhammer, who has two years of eligibility remaining, scored a season-high 16 points at Georgia College as a sophomore.

While a prep standout at Unioto (Ohio) High School, Swackhammer was the Scioto Valley Conference’s co-Player of the Year as a senior. The 6-foot-2 guard scored more than 1,000 career points for Unioto and held schools records for career assists and career steals.

Thomas More begins the season this Friday night at 7 p.m. by hosting Taylor (Ind.) at the Connor Convocation Center. The Trojans posted a 17-15 record last season and dropped a 60-55 decision to Thomas More at Upland, Ind.

Thomas More is picked to finish third in the Mid-South Conference preseason poll. Georgetown is the preseason favorite, followed by the Cumberlands and Thomas More. The Saints are also receiving votes in the NAIA national preseason poll.

Luke Rudy (12.8 ppg) knocked down 105 shots from 3-point range last season. (MSC photo)

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