JUNCTION CITY — Manhattan High girls’ basketball coach Scott Mall wasn’t sure what to expect out of the Junction City Blue Jays and first-year coach Nate Parks Friday night.
His best guess proved to be right, as the Blue Jays came out with a more guard-oriented lineup that looked to play scrappy and physical.
The end result was the same for Manhattan, which won comfortably 63-43, though there were plenty of breaks in the action in a game that featured 41 fouls and 52 free throws.
“It was a very physical game, there was stuff going on all over the place,” Mall said. “That’s what we expected. That’s their strength, they have a lot of really athletic girls. They didn’t put a girl out there who doesn’t move well and can play aggressive.”
As many breaks in the action as there were, Mall said there could have been more.
“I think both teams like to get up and pressure the ball, so there are going to be more fouls called,” he said. “And it was a physical game - I’m sure there were fouls on both sides that didn’t get called, too.”
In the first half, Manhattan didn’t get much separation from the Blue Jays as both teams struggled with turnovers. The Indians had 17 in the first half, which bested the 15 first half giveaways that set a season high on Tuesday against Hayden. In the second half, they handled the pressure better, turning it over six times.
“I thought we were more in control of what was going on in the second half,” Mall said. “In the first half, they took the ball away from us some, we sped up too much on offense, and in a game like this, we wanted to control the tempo of the game. We didn’t do that in the first half, we let it get away from us.”
Manhattan (7-1, 5-0 Centennial) got 16 points from Caroline Ballard and 10 points each from Darby Price and Amara Ehie in the win. Savannah Thaemert finished with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting. All in all, Manhattan had nine girls score in the game.
“That’s always nice, especially in a game like this,” Mall said. “We’ll play a lot of teams that try and take away the middle so we can’t get it in there, so it’s nice when other girls can step up and hit some shots and make some plays.”
Junction City (3-5, 1-3) was led by Kori Kamm’s 10 points.
Manhattan shot 19 of 43 (44 percent) from the floor, and finished 1 of 3 from long range. The Indians did the bulk of their damage at the free-throw line, making 24 of 33. Junction City shot 13 of 45 (28 percent) and finished 3 of 12 from 3, while making 14 of 19 free throws.
Mall said he was surprised his team handled pressure so poorly in the first half just three days after playing Hayden, which also employs a pressure defense.
“It’s like we weren’t ready for that pressure on us when it came, after just playing a team that did that,” Mall said. “I don’t know if we were just a half a step behind, we just weren’t as prepared for that kind of pressure on the ball as we thought.”
The Indians won every quarter in the game, but didn’t take control until the second half while ending the game on a 16-7 run.
Early in the game, it was all Ballard for Manhattan, as the junior scored eight of Manhattan’s first 10 points as the Indians built a 16-11 lead after the first quarter.
The Indians got hot to start the second quarter, going on a 7-0 run to take a double-digit lead before the Blue Jays answered, cutting the lead to as few as five and heading to the locker room down 31-23.
The Indians host Washburn Rural on Tuesday at approximately 7:30 p.m. in a girls-only matchup while the boys’ team prepares for the Tournament of Champions in Dodge City later in the week.