Indians ease past Emporia

By Joel Jellison

Emporia looked to go to its bread-and-butter early and often on Tuesday, but it was to no avail as the Manhattan High girls’ basketball team slowed Spartans’ junior Brianna Knight in a 48-25 win to open January.

Knight entered the game as the Spartans’ leading scorer at 20.5 points per game, while Emporia averages just 45 points as a team, and no other player averages more than six points.

Knight was the only player to score for the Spartans in the first half, as the Indians ran a variety of defensive looks to slow the junior forward down.

She scored just two points in the first quarter and added four points in the second to finish with six points, while the Indians got nine points from Mari Jo Massanet and back-to-back 3-pointers from Par McNair in the second quarter to build up a 28-6 halftime lead.

Knight didn’t seem to really get it going until the third quarter, when she scored four points to open a 6-0 run for the Spartans that cut the MHS lead to 30-12. She made four straight free throws to cut the lead to 37-18 near the end of the period and finished with 14 points.

MHS coach Scott Mall said he thought his team did a pretty good job against the offense that Emporia looked to run, almost stubbornly at times, with Knight in the ball game.

“They have a pattern that they want to run, and it’s not all geared towards Knight,” he said. “But our girls probably had as good a combination of intensity and thinking, because we got to the right places to make them have to go to an option off of that, and that’s probably as good as we’ve done this year of putting those two together.”

Often in the game, it was the combination of Massanet and Darby Price that got the offense going and kept Knight under wraps on the other side as well. And when Price was in foul trouble, Veronica Pitchford and Katie Proctor stepped in to help.

“Early the chemistry between Mari Jo and Darby was great offensively and defensively,” Mall said. “MJ was passing well and Darby was doing a good job to get looks under the basket, and when Darby was in foul trouble, Veronica did a good job and Katie Proctor did a good job. And we did a good job defensively to take away things on the inside that they wanted to do.”

Emporia, which is known for its full-court and half-court press defense, didn’t put too much pressure on the Indians until the second quarter, when the Indians turned in a 17-4 run over the length of the period.

When the second half started, Emporia forced the issue even harder, forcing the Indians into a few mistakes, but not enough to climb back into the game.

Mall said it was a different Emporia than the experience deep teams Manhattan has faced in the recent past, but because of the style the Spartans play, it was a quality win.

“Anytime we beat Emporia, because you always have teams you struggle with and Emporia is one of them because they are always so physical — to beat them, no matter the situation, is always good,” he said.

Massanet was held under 20 points for the first time this season, scoring 15 points and finishing with a handful of blocks and assists. McNair and Spilker finished with career highs in points at nine and eight, respectively.

The Indians will head out on the road on Friday for just the second time this season for a game at Shawnee Heights. Manhattan will then return home for a two-game stretch.

Manhattan 48, Emporia 25

Emporia     2   4   12   7 — 25

Manhattan   11   17   11   9 — 48

Individual scoring

EMPORIA (25) — Knight 14, Hastings 7, Guion 2, Williams 1, Wilhite 1.

MANHATTAN (48) — Massanet 15, McNair 9, Price 7, Spilker 8, Ehie 4, Pitchford 2, Thompson 3.

3-pointers — Emporia 1 (Hastings). Manhattan 3 (McNair 2, Thompson).

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