By this time next week, there won’t be any mystery to where the Manhattan High basketball teams will land for sub-state.
But between now and then, the Indians have a pair of chances against tough competition to maintain or improve their seed for the postseason, starting with a trip to Hayden on Tuesday.
With Class 6A and 5A abandoning regional sites and playing all games at the higher seed, finishing at or near the top of the bracket becomes extremely important. Manhattan boys’ coach Tim Brooks knows his team would benefit from playing at home.
“Going into (Friday), we were sitting third in sub-state, which you would host first round,” Brooks said. “But we’re all clumped together. I think that we’ve got to get at least one win to maintain a four-spot. So it’s important.
“I think our guys understand the task at hand.”
With a 7-2 home record and a 2-4 record in true road games, there’s no doubt the Indians are more comfortable within the confines of their own gym, even if they have been playing better on the road lately.
Against Hayden (9-8, 5-6 Centennial), Brooks expects a dog-fight much like the first matchup, where Manhattan won 45-44 in a game that went back and forth the whole way. Prior to January’s win at home, Manhattan had just a 1-5 record against the Wildcats dating back to 2008. Needless to say, Hayden is used to having the upper hand against the Indians.
“They’re going to obviously want revenge,” Brooks said. “I think that since the Hayden game, we’ve become a different team on the road. We understand how important this week is, so I think that we’re going to go up to Topeka and give it our all.”
Manhattan (10-8, 6-5) follows up Tuesday’s game with its regular-season finale at Seaman (9-9, 6-5) on Friday.
For the girls’ team, the sub-state picture is more about maintaining its lead than trying to make up ground. The Indians (14-4, 8-3) have a one-game lead over both Wichita Heights (13-5) and Washburn Rural (13-5, 9-2) with two games to go. Win them both, and Manhattan will ensure itself of the top seed at sub-state. Lose even one, and the entire picture changes.
“In our sub-state, there’s not any really weak team, but the No. 8 team is probably going to be the weakest, so that’s who you want to play,” Mall said. “If you could get the one-seed and put Washburn Rural and Wichita Heights in the other bracket, there’s still tough teams to beat, but at least they aren’t teams that typically go on.
“But I like our chances no matter where we end up.”
Of the three teams, the Indians have the toughest remaining schedule, playing at Hayden (14-4, 9-2) and at Seaman (15-2, 9-2), both of which are tied atop the league standings.
Rural has Seaman at home and a trip to Emporia (7-11, 4-7) to round out its schedule. Wichita Heights will almost certainly beat Wichita Southeast (5-13), but will have its hands full against Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel (15-3) in its finale.
Manhattan starts its quest to hold the top seed with a trip to Hayden on Tuesday. The Wildcats managed to hand Manhattan its first conference loss in 18 tries back in January in a 29-22, low-scoring win. Hayden went on to move to 9-0 in league play until last week, dropping back-to-back games to Seaman and Washburn Rural.
Mall said he is fairly indifferent when it comes to having such meaningful games in the final week of the season.
“It’d be good either way,” he said. “Yeah, it’d be nice if we could lighten up a little bit, but if you have a game like (the blowout win over Highland Park) turned out to be right before sub-state, then you worry that you’re not really prepared.
“After this week, I think we’ll be prepared, and we don’t play until Thursday the following week. We’ll take what we’ve got and make it work.”