Manhattan High senior Chris Hudgins admits to enjoying rivalry games.
In front of a packed crowd Friday night, Hudgins made his presence felt, especially in a dominant third quarter, as the Indians posted a 55-36 over rival Junction City.
“I think honestly, it’s one of the biggest things in high school, these rivalries, and I love ‘em,” Hudgins said. “The hype, the intensity, the love for the game, it’s just great.”
After playing a close game through two quarters against the Blue Jays, Manhattan, with Hudgins leading the charge, took over in the third quarter, outscoring Junction City 18-2 while turning what had been a seven-point game into a rout.
Defensively, the Indians switched to its 3-2 zone and the Blue Jays couldn’t get much going. Offensively, Hudgins and his teammates hit the offensive glass hard, outhustling their opponents and getting easy putbacks to build up the lead.
“The zone did its job and we got a couple steals and couple easy layups,” Manhattan coach Tim Brooks said. “Which gave us a lot of momentum.”
Hudgins scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in the third quarter, finishing 7 of 12 from the floor.
“When he brings that passion like he did today, he’s pretty tough,” Brooks said. “He’s a tough mismatch, because he can step out and shoot it, but he can go inside and be a brute, as we saw tonight.”
Even before the third quarter, Manhattan (5-3, 2-2 Centennial) was in control most of the first half. After going back and forth the first four minutes, the Indians took a 9-6 lead on a 3-pointer by Jacob Holloway midway through the first quarter and led the rest of the way. Holloway and Payton Stephens would each finish just short of double figures with nine points. The Blue Jays were led by Frank Johnston’s seven points, while Eric Stepan and leading scorer Cedric Johnson each finished with six.
For Junction City (2-6, 1-3), not being able to adjust to the change in defense in the second half made any notion of a comeback impossible. Head coach Pat Battle said he knew it was coming, but his team didn’t execute.
“I’ll have to go back and figure out why our kids treated it as a surprise,” Battle said. “We knew it was coming and we drew up some stuff for that in the locker room, but you’ve got to give credit, that’s something that Coach Brooks always does and does very well. Our kids have to be on their toes and I’ve got to be on my toes.”
Brooks, who employed more of the zone than he has in any game prior, said his team is beginning to put it all together on that end of the floor.
“We’ve been working on it,” he said. “The group that we have wasn’t real good at either of the zones that we play, so we didn’t run them much. We played a lot of man-to-man, but now we’re playing all kinds of different defenses. It takes guys with a pretty high basketball IQ to be able to do that.”
Brooks made the change after a half that saw them take a seven-point lead, but not play to the level he was looking for, especially from his starting five.
“We were a little disappointed with the first group there in the second quarter,” he said. “I thought the second group went in and played well, then the first group responded after halftime. They went out and had a whale of a third quarter.”
Manhattan shot 61 percent in the second half after a 43-percent effort in the first two quarters to cap off a great night for the hometown fans. Both coaches were appreciative of the atmosphere, with fans of both teams filling all corners of the gym, even in the upper level.
“I really appreciate the fact that all those people came out to see us,” Battle said. “It kind of reminds me of the way high school basketball used to be. You really don’t see these types of crowds anymore, and I was really happy for our kids to get the opportunity to experience this.”