Manhattan High experienced something it hadn’t all season on Friday.
A close game.
With a furious comeback from Shawnee Heights, the Indians found themselves in a nail-biting position with a game tied with less than a minute to play, and needed offensive rebounds and put-backs on free throws to win 42-38.
MHS coach Scott Mall said his team was able to learn from its first close one of the season.
“You don’t want it to happen, but if it does you have to take advantage of it,” he said. “We didn’t get off to a good start in this game and it was a close game, but we had to make it work and make the big plays.”
The Indians are off to a 5-0 start now on the season, one of their best starts in some time, and are looking for another win when they host Washburn Rural on Tuesday in Manhattan.
The game between MHS and the Junior Blues has come to be a bit of a rivalry in recent years, with the teams even playing for a chance at the state tournament just two seasons ago.
The Indians won the Centennial League title in the 2009-10 season, but were denied a state tournament berth with a loss to the Junior Blues in the sub-state final.
This time around it will be a pair of five-win teams in the undefeated Indians and the 5-2 Junior Blues squaring off for early position in the Centennial standings.
Mall said after his team’s win over Shawnee Heights that he expected another tough game against the Junior Blues.
“It’s gonna be tough, they have a little more size than they did last year,” he said. “They have kind of gone up and down as their shooting has gone that way, and they beat Shawnee Heights on a late basket in a close game. They have scored a lot of points in other games, so we will have to be on our toes.”
Washburn Rural opened the year with an 82-14 win over Wyandotte and then beat Topeka High 56-51. The Junior Blues lost their first game of the season to Olathe Northwest, 58-41, and then topped Shawnee Mission West 41-30. After wins over Shawnee Heights and Topeka West, the Junior Blues dropped a game against Seaman on Friday.
The Indians will host Junction City on Friday and will then have one game against Highland Park on the road before going to McPherson for the Mid-America Classic in two weeks.