Manhattan won 10 of its first 11 games this season with a balanced offensive attack and pressure defense.
Marred by first-quarter foul trouble in the post, the Indians weren’t themselves on Friday, turning exclusively to the 3-pointer at times in the first half, and needing to rally the troops at halftime to beat Topeka West 45-32 at MHS’ West Campus.
After struggling to sustain an offense in the first half, the Indians dialed up full-court pressure defense in the third quarter. The change drove an 18-3 MHS run that included 14-straight points to help the team take a 38-25 lead with more than three minutes to play in the third period.
MHS coach Scott Mall said they tried to press in the first half, but it didn’t work. The success they found in the second half with the press is what has been working for them all season long.
“That’s the kind of ball we play most the time,” he said. “We kept looking for that, where we just play and move the ball around and play tough defense — and things worked out for us.”
Mari Jo Massanet scored eight of her game-high 14 points during the run, after missing much of the first half with foul trouble.
Mall said the foul trouble caused problems for his team.
“It was a big difference in the first half that Mari Jo got in foul trouble, because she is a focus of so many of the things that we do,” he said. “That really hurt in the first half.”
The long run gave the Indians a lead that was manageable for Topeka West if the Chargers were to go on a fourth-quarter comeback run. But the Indians kept their defense stingy and held West to five points and only one bucket from the field.
Massanet opened the game with four straight points for the Indians, but she committed her second foul of the game with 6:03 to play in the first quarter, and spent the rest of the period on the bench.
The Indians spent most of the quarter hurling shots from long range, getting one from Elayna Spilker and a pair from Kristen Thompson, including a buzzer-beating halfcourt shot to put MHS up 13-9 after one quarter.
Manhattan struggled its way to seven points and a 20-18 halftime lead in the second quarter, getting beat up on the inside by Topeka West’s 6-foot-2 junior forward Autura Campbell.
Campbell led the Chargers with nine points in the first half, and while she didn’t always make the basket, she kept it physical on the inside.
The Indians were 4-of-13 from 3-point range in the second half, and often rushed through offensive possessions with hurried shots from the perimeter.
Mall said the long range shooting was somewhat by design, but his team had opportunities at better looks.
“We’ve been stressing to them that we need to look to shoot the ball from the outside, and we want to shoot those, we just can’t settle for all of those,” he said. “We made a few, but we missed a lot of them and then we had no continuity on offense.”
Massanet was the only MHS player in double figures, while Campbell finished with 13 for West and Raven Cameron scored 11 for the Chargers. MHS got six points apiece out of Thompson, Spilker and Veronica Pitchford.
MHS 45, TOPEKA WEST 32
Topeka West 9 9 9 5 — 32
Manhattan 13 7 18 7 — 45
TOPEKA WEST (32) — Campbell 13, Cameron 11, Copeland 6, Grant 2.
MANHATTAN (45) — Massanet 14, Pitchford 6, Thompson 6, Spilker 6, Ehie 5, Price 4, Crusinberry 4.
3-pointers — Topeka West 2 (Copeland 2). Manhattan 4 (Thompson 2, Spilker, Ehie).