Indians host Thunderbirds on senior night

By Joel Jellison

The Manhattan High boys’ basketball team is loaded with senior players this season, and on Friday, that group will play its final game at home.

With the team currently ranked No. 7 in its sub-state, it’s likely that Aaron Pulliam, Deante Burton, Keaton Barragar, John Perbeck, Brandon Payne, Pat Keck and Jacob Sobering will play in their final home game when the team hosts Shawnee Heights on Friday.

The Indians will go into the game on a two-game losing streak, but a streak that saw the team play quality basketball.

After losses to Salina Central and Hayden by a combined five points, MHS coach Tim Brooks said there are signs that they are getting better.

“We don’t really like to dwell on losses or moral victories, but we’ve got to dwell on how hard we’re playing, especially defensively, and continue to get better on offense,” he said.

The last time Manhattan and Shawnee Heights played, the game went into overtime with the T-Birds looking like they couldn’t miss from long range. But the Indians executed down the stretch and won 47-45.

When the T-Birds come to Manhattan on Friday, they will be facing a different team that has seemingly found itself over the last three games, despite going just 1-2 in that stretch.

The Indians’ offense has been bolstered by its best defensive player in Burton, who has scored in double figures for three straight games and led the team in assists, all while getting saddled with the responsibility of guarding the other team’s best player.

Burton scored 15 points in the win over Seaman last Friday and added 15 in the tight loss on the road in Salina. His 10 points against Hayden on Tuesday brought the team back into the game, and his assists in transition put the team ahead of the Centennial-League leaders for a stretch.

Brooks said they will celebrate the careers of the seven seniors on the roster on Friday, and he hopes they can do so with a win on senior night.

“It’s always neat and it’s always fun, and you hate to see the guys that put in so much work over the years come to their final home game, but that’s the way it is, that’s how life happens,” he said. “They’ve all given us a lot, I think it’s a good group and we’ve had our ups and downs, and good times and bad times, but I think that all-in-all, because of their work and effort, they’ve made our program better.”

Next week the Indians will go on the road to face Emporia on Tuesday, and will conclude with Topeka High on Friday.

Sitting No. 7 in their sub-state right now, the Indians are not looking at the possibility of playing Wichita Heights if they stay ahead of Junction City. Washburn Rural, Derby and Wichita East are all fighting for the No. 2 seed, which would host MHS at this point.

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