Indians beat Topeka Seaman for league crown

By Grant Guggisberg

he Manhattan High girls’ basketball team has two primary goals for the season.

Win the Centennial League, and get back to state.

With Friday’s 47-38 win over Seaman, they’re halfway there.

In a battle of teams with undefeated league records on senior night, Manhattan used a strong defensive effort in the second half to rally from a five-point halftime deficit and win its 17th straight game.

“We need to celebrate this, because this is a big win and I thought of us as the underdog in this game,” Manhattan head coach Scott Mall said. “We need to celebrate this, and then next week we need to get ourselves focused on getting after the next one.”

Darby Price, who finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, echoed her coach’s words.

“It’s a big win,” Price said. “This is what we wanted all year — we wanted the Centennial League. Next up is sub-state, and after that state. This is a big win, I’m glad we finished it.”

After trailing by five at halftime, Manhattan (19-1, 13-0 Centennial) came out with all the momentum in the third quarter, scoring 10 straight points while holding Seaman scoreless for more than 4 1/2 minutes to take the lead.

The Vikings responded, however, getting back-to-back baskets in the final minute to cut the Manhattan lead to 34-32 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Indians started the final period much like the third, getting two baskets from Caroline Ballard and a bucket by Price, while holding Seaman scoreless for nearly six minutes to build up a lead that would hold up in the end.

“We’ve lived off our defense — every time we’ve gotten in trouble offensively, our defense has come through,” Mall said. “I thought our team defense was really good, especially because they’re so big.”

The Vikings got as close as four points in the final two minutes, but the Indians knocked down enough free throws to win, despite finishing the game 14 of 22 from the charity stripe.

Joining Price in double-figure scoring for Manhattan was Ballard, who scored just one point in the first half but scored 13 in the final two quarters to finish with 14.

“We were waiting for Caroline to get into the swing of things, and she did in the second half,” Mall said. “She took great shots, got nice and relaxed.”

Seaman (17-3, 12-1) was led by Tatyana Legette’s 13 points, 11 of which came in the first half.

Legette proved to be a tough matchup all night for the Indians, with a mix of athleticism and size the team doesn’t normally see. Manhattan struggled to contain the junior, who had 11 points and eight boards by halftime. They adjusted in the second half, holding her to just a basket.

“I thought the girls guarding her did a good job,” Mall said. “We switched off a lot in there, and we got great help.”

Seaman head coach Steve Alexander said Manhattan’s aggressiveness was key. Despite playing with a smaller lineup, the Indians won the rebounding battle 38-24.

“They got a lot of loose balls,” he said. “They were the more aggressive team, and that’s why they shot 20 free throws and we shot four. At times we were aggressive, but we didn’t sustain it the whole game.”

Manhattan started the game hot, playing back and forth with the Vikings until the end of the quarter, turning a two-point deficit into a four-point lead with a basket by Amara Ehie, a 3-pointer by Molly Fiser and a free throw from Ballard in the final seconds to lead 14-10.

But Seaman came roaring back in the second period, starting with a 7-0 run to retake the lead and ending the quarter just as strong, with a 6-0 run to lead 23-18 at the break.

“In the first half, we did a lot of good things, but there toward the end of the half, we made a couple defensive mistakes,” Mall said. “We did some things we don’t normally do and they came up with some baskets from it.”

Friday night was also senior night for the Indians, as Price, Par McNair and Erika Hairgrove were all honored between games.

“Those three have done a great job,” Mall said. “Par and Darby have both started for two years, and played key roles for three or four years. Then Erika, coming back from an injury last year, she’s just been a huge leader for us, everyday in practice.”

The Indians will now shift their focus to the postseason, which starts Wednesday against Wichita Southeast (2-18) at 7 p.m.

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