It’s no secret Manhattan High coach Tim Brooks hangs his hat on defense.
In the Indians’ best games, they hold their opponents to low scoring totals and shooting percentages, regardless of what they’re doing on the offensive end.
In Thursday’s rematch with Emporia, the offense was there, but the defense couldn’t contain the athletic Spartans in a 73-60 loss — Manhattan’s first of the season at home.
“If we score 60, we’ve got to win,” Brooks said. “We can’t give up that many points. I don’t think that we’ve won a game where we’ve given up more than 50, so we’ve got to shore up the defensive end.”
Emporia (11-1, 4-1 Centennial) got double-digit scoring from both Jerel Morrow and Jackson Perez, scoring 20 and 16 points, respectively. JL Savage chipped in 13, including four 3s.
“We just can’t give up that many points,” Brooks said. “Though Emporia had a lot to do with it because of their skill — we just have to be better defensively. We have to play defense as a unit.”
The last time Emporia and Manhattan (6-6, 2-3) met on the hardwood, Garin Vandiver led all scorers with 19 points, while proving to be a matchup problem all night for the Indians.
In the rematch, Vandiver was a non-factor for three quarters, but the end result for the Indians still didn’t produce a tally in the win column.
“We tried to wear them down,” Brooks said. “We played a bunch of bodies, and everybody that was out there busted their tail. We kind of hoped that our depth would be an advantage for us, and I think it was, but they’re awful good.”
Manhattan got 15 points from Chris Hudgins, while Winston Dimel chipped in 10 points, taking Emporia’s slower posts off the dribble for easy baskets at the rim.
“He was a matchup problem for them because he’s so explosive,” Brooks said of Dimel. “We tried to get our posts the ball in the mid post and the high post and let them go to work. Winston’s got a good quick first step. We had to exploit some of their weaknesses.”
Facing a seven-point halftime deficit, the Indians managed to rally in the third quarter, evening the score at 46-all toward the end of the period. Manhattan trailed 53-52 early in the fourth quarter, but gave up a 10-1 run to Emporia, with Vandiver getting fouled on a 3-point attempt and converting the four-point play in between two baskets by Jordan Torres.
By the four-minute mark, Manhattan trailed by 10 and would have to lean on its defense to get back into the game. But the stops didn’t come.
“I thought offensively we took a couple quick shots that led to some transition buckets for them that opened the gap there,” Brooks said. “When we needed stops in the half court, we just couldn’t get them.”
Unlike the previous meeting with the Spartans, Manhattan got off to good start, taking a 7-0 lead to begin the game.
From there, though, Morrow and the Spartans started to heat up. Morrow was able to slash through the Manhattan defense and get to the paint, finishing near the rim while converting on three and-one plays on the night. The senior finished with 13 first-half points and could have had more had he not picked up his third foul midway through the second quarter.
“He’s so athletic,” Emporia coach Beau Welch said. “He just jumps over you. He’s not very tall, but he can play like a big. When he catches it on the block — I’ll say it this way, if you’re three inches taller or less, he’s going to score over you. He’s going to get up and rise over you, which makes him a tough matchup.”
With Vandiver not scoring, Welch said he expected someone else to step up and fill the gap.
“I think that’s why we’re 11-1,” Welch said. “We have other guys that can step up and make plays when guys have rough nights. I’ll be honest, if we needed Jerel to, he could be averaging 15 or 20 a game for us. But he’s extremely unselfish and does exactly what we need him to do.”
For Manhattan, keeping up with the offense of the Spartans proved difficult even on a good shooting night. The Indians shot 45 percent from the floor, and were shooting 50 percent from 3 until the fourth quarter.
MHS frosh win
The Indians’ freshmen boys defeated Emporia last week 52-45 at MHS.
Grant Munsen led the way with 10 points, two assists and two steals.
Kirkland Lambert added nine points — all in the fourth quarter — togo along withfour assists and two steals
Jackson Harms and Darien Stokes scored eights apiece off the bench. Darryl Mallett had a team-high five rebounds.
Emporia had the early lead at the end of the first quarter, up 13-9, but the Indians won each of the last three quarters to pull out the victory.
The Indians are now 5-4 on the next season and face Topeka High on Feb. 1 at MHS.