Ekart’s 3-pointer sets up thrilling win for MHS boys basketball

By Maria McIlwain

Tommy Ekart wasn’t nervous as he set up to shoot a 3-pointer from NBA range. Anyone would have understood if he was, though. Manhattan was down by three points, and there were about three seconds left in regulation.

But he was on a mission.

“Coach preaches in practice, ‘You gotta step up, you gotta be mentally tough,’ so that’s what I tried to do for him tonight,” the senior said.

And about four minutes later, the Manhattan boys basketball team (4-1, 2-0) came away with the 70-64 overtime win against Topeka High on Tuesday night. Ekart led the Indians with 26 points, including the game-tying 3.

Head coach Benji George liked how his team handled its first overtime game of the season.

“I thought they handled adversity well,” he said. “It helps to be on your home court in that situation and be in an environment you’re comfortable in, but credit to Cade (Roberts) and Tommy (Ekart) especially for leading us tonight. They were just phenomenal.”

Roberts also had a career night for the Indians. The senior recorded 25 points and had a hand in Ekart’s heroics with a screen.

“I feel like I’m a big role player, and I try to do everything I can to get guys open on screens or taking charges, and I know that’s kind of my game,” Roberts said. “It’s a small thing that people don’t see. I don’t mind it. I feel proud about it even if people don’t recognize me for it.”

He added that he had been working on getting open in practice.

“We’ve been working in the post a lot over break,” Roberts said. “A lot of it is just being comfortable in there, and being to know what to do, what move to go to. I just got in my zone really early on. I knew what to do, and I kept going to it every time.”

George said having different players step up each night helps take pressure off players like Trevor Hudgins, who recorded eight points on Tuesday.

Both teams started off slow; nearly two minutes passed before Ekart opened the scoring with a 3-pointer. The Trojans responded with a trey of their own about a minute later. The Indians grabbed the lead with a 7-2 run, but Topeka made it a four-point game at the end of the first quarter.

Manhattan’s lead grew to six points in the second quarter. Roberts’ free throw gave Manhattan an eight-point lead before Topeka High tied it up toward the end of the second period on a Demarous Allen jumper, and a Nysir Scott 3-pointer gave the Trojans their first lead of the quarter. The Indians rallied in the final seconds, and Micah Wiggins’ basket gave Manhattan a one-point lead at the buzzer.

“I am proud of them, but we need to execute some things better,” George said.

Scott led the Trojans with 26 points on the night, and Reece White also finished in double figures with 10 points.

Manhattan’s lead grew as high as 12 points in the third quarter, but Topeka wouldn’t go away. Scott hit a half-court 3-pointer from to bring the deficit to one at the end of the third quarter.

The Trojans carried that momentum into the fourth quarter. They led by as many as six points, but a Trevor Hudgins hook shot tied the game back up with 2 minutes and 20 seconds left. Scott hit yet another 3 with 10 seconds left, and George called the timeout and laid out the plan for Ekart’s shot.

“The momentum kind of changed,” Roberts said. “(Topeka) hit a couple big shots, and nothing was falling for us … we kind of died down a little bit on defense, our talking kind of died, and that’s what I feel like switched the momentum a little bit. But fourth quarter, we knew we had to come in, step it up, and that’s what I feel like we did.”

Manhattan was composed in overtime, maintaining possession for much of the four-minute period.

“We did a great job of running the clock,” George said. “We stalled it out and did a good job of it.”

Ekart said the last seconds felt like the longest.

“They’re always pretty long when people are fouling,” Ekart said. “But you’ve just got to stay with it, You’ve got to be mentally tough.”

The Indians face another test on Friday when they travel to face Highland Park.

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