Take a look at the tournament field for the 17th Annual Mid-America Classic, and it’s tough to find a team that isn’t playing well right now.
With the exception of one team, seven of the schools enter with winning records and three are undefeated to this point of the season.
One of those teams is the Manhattan High girls’ basketball team, which enters at 8-0 and will face a tough Hays squad at 6-3.
MHS coach Scott Mall said the tournament field is tough, but it also gives the Indians the chance to see some new opponents.
“The good thing about going there is that a lot of the teams we haven’t seen before,” he said. “It will be a good experience for the girls to prepare for somebody they haven’t seen. It will be a tough field, but a good experience.”
Mall said the tournament time of the season is a good experience because it allows the girls to experience playing three games in three days, which is similar to the state tournament format, and also similar to the two-day sub-state tournament.
He said it also aids in the development of the team.
“You are playing in a tournament atmosphere where you are playing three days in a row and that’s different,” he said. “This three days in a different environment shows you where your at as you prepare for sub-state.”
After last Tuesday’s win over Highland Park, the Indians will have had more than a week since they last played a game.
Mall said they attempted to use the time to work on things a team doesn’t always get much time to do during the season.
“We worked on a lot of fundamental things last week that you don’t always have time to do, and this week we have focused on more specific things on offense and defense to sharpen up some things or add some things,” he said. “We tried to put it to good use and hopefully it turns out that way.”
Mall also said the week got off to a right start when the team had a strong practice on Monday.
“I thought this week the girls came in and you would figure they would be down a little bit with a few days off, but they came in pumped up and ready to go,” he said. “The seniors stepped up, and we really started off with a great week of practice.”
The Indians will start off with a team in Hays that Mall said has sometimes been its own worst enemy on the offensive side.
Mall said the Hays Indians play good defense, but have had games where they suffered through tough shooting stretches.
“They are a team that when they shoot the ball well, they are a completely different team, and they have had some games where their shooting caused them some problems and kept games closer than they would have liked,” he said.
Mall said a majority of Hays’ offense will go through its strongest player in Paige Lundsford, and the defense will control the pace of the game.
“Hays will be tough, they play good defense, they keep their games low scoring, and they have an outstanding player in Paige Lundsford who scores about 15 points a game,” he said. “She is a tall girl who can handle the ball and shoot from the outside and passes well. She will be tough and their post players are getting better.”
The Indians will play the winner of undefeated Andale and Buhler on Friday and will finish the tournament on Saturday. The other side of the bracket features unbeaten McPherson against the only team with a losing record in Goddard, and Gardner-Edgerton taking on Beloit.
Mall said by the end of the weekend, the goal is for the team to improve as a whole. The MHS coach said that will be a key to the remaining nine games in the season starting in February.
“I think, like always, we just got to get better, keep improving,” Mall said. “If we stay like we are, we’re not going to have as successful a second half as we should have.”