DODGE CITY — Manhattan High boys’ basketball coach Tim Brooks said he talked with his team about throwing the first punch against Hutchinson on Thursday.
The Indians did just that to open the game, but it wasn’t enough, as the Salthawks got off the mat and delivered a knockout blow of their own to hand MHS a 50-36 opening-round loss in the 69th Annual Tournament of Champions at United Wireless Arena.
“We talked about that throughout the week, how Hutch was going to come out and throw the first punch, but I thought we went there in the first quarter and really threw the first one,” Brooks said. “But when we needed to do that in the third quarter, we didn’t, and it cost us.”
MHS moved on in the three-day tournament to play Class 4A Ulysses this afternoon, with the winner advancing to the fourth-place game on Saturday. Hays and St. James Academy will play in the second loser’s bracket game on Friday, and Manhattan will play the winner or loser of that game when it concludes its tournament on Saturday,
Manhattan (4-4) trailed by just three at halftime, but that was as close as the Indians would get the rest of the way, as the Salthawks used a devastating 10-2 run to open the third frame and take control of the game. — outscoring MHS 17-10 in the quarter.
“We were a step behind, offensively and defensive,” Brooks said. “I don’t know if it was the trip, the travel, or if we need to play with more energy. Not only were we a step behind, but we weren’t in the right positions defensively.
“I thought, at times, we got good shots for each other and other times we took bad shots that were contested. We aren’t good enough to win games when we do that.”
Hutchinson, which shot 41 percent (17-of-41) from the field, opened the third quarter with a pair of 3-pointers from Tanner Higgins, igniting the decisive surge to build an 11-point lead with 3:58 to play in the period. The Salthawks started the third like it finished the second when Higgins buried two 3-pointers just before halftime to give Hutch the lead for good.
“We didn’t do a good enough job realizing where (Higgins) was,” Brooks said. “After he hit two, we probably should have had our head on a swivel and figuring out where he was, but he hit another two. That wasn’t a very good job on us recognizing that.”
The Indians, who shot 38 percent (14-of-36), did manage two 3s of their own to stop the bleeding before the final period — one from Brandon Payne and one from Jacob Holloway — but it wasn’t enough to slow Hutch (6-3).
Ronald Royd and Higgins led the Salthawks with 15 and 14 points, respectively, but they made their impacts in different ways. While Higgins did his damage from the outside on 5-of-8 shooting — including 4-for-5 behind the arc — Royd punished the Indians inside with quick slashes to the basket for easy layups.
Down the stretch, the Salthawks put the Indians away at the free throw line, making 10-of-13 from the stripe, while MHS struggled to make its free shots. The Indians, who got a game-high nine points from Payne, made just 3-of-14 from the line, adding to an already frustrating night shooting in which MHS scored just two field goals in the final period.
“It seemed (contagious) and I think if we made a few in the first half the game is played differently, but we didn’t,” Brooks said. “It’s not like we don’t work on them, but they have to step up there with confidence and knock it down. You’re not guarded, you have 10 seconds to get everything ready and knock it down.”
HUTCH 50, MHS 36
Manhattan High 8 12 10 6 - 36
Hutchinson High 9 14 17 10 - 50
MANHATTAN (36) — Burton 8, Stephens 1, Taylor 4, Barragar 5, Holloway 4, Perbeck 4, Payne 9, Keck 1.
HUTCHINSON (50) — Bowen, 2, Higgins 14, Royd 15, Munds 3, Flores 3, Wells 1, Roehm 6, Turner 6.
3-pointers — Manhattan 5 (Payne 3, Holloway, Barragar); Hutchinson 6 (Higgins 4, Royd, Flores).