Against Hayden on Tuesday, the Manhattan High girls’ basketball team was out of sorts.
Head coach Scott Mall said his players weren’t themselves against the Wildcats, and even the casual fan could tell.
Missed layups, poor rebounding and more unforced errors kept Hayden in the driver’s seat most of the night in the 29-22 win.
“I don’t know if we were scared, or laid back, or something,” Mall said. “But it just wasn’t us.”
Despite being saddled by turnovers and a season-low field goal percentage, the Indians erased a 10-point first-half deficit in the third quarter to tie the game at 21 heading into the final period. After four minutes of scoreless ball, Manhattan took a one-point lead, its first since the first quarter, on a free-throw by Darby Price. But that one point would be the only scoring by the Indians in the fourth quarter.
Hayden closed the game on an 8-0 run, making 6-of-7 free throws to put the game away. The dagger came in the form of an uncontested layup by Jordan Lenherr on an inbounds under the Hayden basket that gave the Wildcats a 25-22 lead with 47 seconds to play.
“We had opportunities where we didn’t even get a shot off, and then the big play when we made a mistake on the inbounds play and gave the girl the wide-open layup,” Mall said. “That was huge right there.”
Manhattan had plenty of chances throughout the night, but shot 7-of-32 from the floor and 1-of-9 from 3. Price and Elayna Spilker led the team with seven points each, and the Indians scored in single digits in all but one quarter.
Hayden was led by Lenherr’s eight points and six from Sarah Pimentel.
The Indians managed to get back into the game on the heels of its defense, which allowed just four points in a game-changing third quarter. Manhattan switched exclusively to a zone look on the defensive end, which frustrated the Wildcats. Hayden had just four shot attempts and eight turnovers in the third quarter, while Manhattan finally found its groove on offense, erasing the nine-point halftime deficit.
But once the third quarter ended, Manhattan regressed back to its first-half self.
“We got in a position where it was time to go win the game, and we were just a little hesitant,” Mall said. “Instead of making a play like we did to get back in the game, all of the sudden we tightened up a little bit and worried about what might happen instead of just making something happen and seeing where it goes.”
Mall said the zone defense he used, which slowed Hayden down throughout the game, worked great, but didn’t always lead to good things on the offensive end.
“We were so reactionary on defense in the man — we just let them do what they wanted to do and they were very patient until we’d make a mistake,” he said. “In the first half when we did it, we needed to go down and score. That second quarter was huge because we missed like 10 shots in the lane. If we make three or four of those, the game looks entirely different.
“We needed to capitalize on the confusion we caused.”
Mall said part of the problem may have been the pressure to not make a bad play down the stretch after a mistake-filled first half.
“We have really good girls, and sometimes they worry about not making mistakes,” he said. “You want them to keep that in their mind, but to also go out and make plays and if you make a mistake, learn from it and move on.”
With the 17-game winning streak against conference foes snapped, Mall said his team will have to use this feeling as a tool for future games.
“It’s going to have to be,” he said. “We didn’t get to where we were at by playing like we did in the first half. Not finishing plays, not rebounding. That was big. It seemed like we hardly got an offensive rebound, and they got lots of them.”