With Mari Jo Massanet out of the game, Jenna Crusinberry hit the biggest shots of her career on Friday.
With less than a second on the clock in Manhattan’s pivotal Centennial League showdown with Seaman, the MHS senior knocked down a pair of go-ahead free throws in a tied game to help the Indians win 40-38.
The win allowed the Indians to take a two-game lead in the league standings.
Manhattan was riding high with a 31-19 lead in the third quarter when Massanet took the ball toward the basket in transition and went down awkwardly with a knee injury after a collision in the paint.
The MHS crowd received the play as a controversial no-call, as Seaman’s Kelsey Akin was fouled on the other end and went to the line where she converted a three-point play.
MHS coach Scott Mall said he couldn’t tell what happened on the play to leave Massanet sitting on the ground holding her knee.
“I didn’t really see exactly what happened,” he said. “I was hoping she wouldn’t take it to the basket because in that situation I really would have rather had her hold the ball up. I didn’t see the contact or anything, I don’t know what was happening there.”
With the Indians’ leading scorer out of the game, the Vikings dialed up the defensive pressure and went on a 6-1 lead to cut the MHS (14-1, 9-0) lead to 32-25.
Mall said once the Vikings started putting on pressure, they didn’t let up at all.
“They hesitated a little bit once she was out, but toward the end when they had to go after us hard, they did, and that changes our complexion a little bit,” he said. “I thought we tried a lot of passes inside that we normally do with her, that without her weren’t the same. We needed to learn the situation and what we need to do there.”
Seaman’s Kelsey Akin led the Vikings with nine of her 19 points in the third period, and looked to continue causing problems for the Indians in the fourth.
But after a technical foul on Seaman coach Steve Alexander that followed Akin’s fourth foul, and a charging call that took her out of the game, the Vikings were left to look other directions for scoring.
Mall said the charge, taken by Onyeka Ehie that took Akin out, was one of the biggest plays of the game.
Seaman’s comeback attempt was aided by what the Indians were failing to do. Manhattan was 6-of-18 at the free throw line in the final period, missing shots at key times, while the Vikings found their way back in.
Already in the midst of a 5-1 run that brought them within two points of the lead, Seaman took the ball after a pair of missed free throws by Elayna Spilker, and got a jumper to go from Mallory Diederich with five seconds to play, tying the game at 38.
The Indians worked the ball in quickly between Crusinberry and Ehie, and the referees whistled Seaman for a foul that appeared to put Ehie at the line with less than a second left.
But the Vikings would argue the player that was fouled, insisting that Crusinberry was the one who should be shooting the shots the decided the fate of the game — already having missed two shots with 1:01 left.
Crusinberry drained both shots, however, and the Vikings had no time to react.
After the game, Mall said he told his team that they did a lot of things the opposite of what they wanted to in the final five minutes.
“We got panicked, we missed free throws, which we haven’t done all year long and we lost our cool a little but,” he said. “But we kept battling, we kept hanging tough.”
The teams opened the game in a tight back-and-forth battle, with Seaman getting the biggest lead of the quarter at three points. But the Indians charged back with a 3-pointer from Kristen Thompson and led 7-6 with a late bucket from Darby Price.
Crusinberry hit back-to-back 3s — entering the game with two makes all season — with less than five minutes to play in the first half, and Price made an inside shot to push an Indians’ lead out to 17-11.
Seaman used a 4-2 spurt to cut the lead to 19-15 with 19 seconds to play, and Ehie nailed a 3 for Manhattan with two seconds left to push the lead to 22-15.
MHS 40, SEAMAN 38
Seaman 6 9 10 13 — 38
Manhattan 7 15 10 8 — 40
SEAMAN (38) — Akin 19, Schafer 5, Slimmer 7, Heald 2, Legette 1, Searcy 3, Diederich 2.
MANHATTAN (40) — Massanet 10, Crusinberry 8, Price 4, Ehie 6, Thompson 3, Pitchford 2, Spilker 5, McNair 1, Proctor 1.
3-pointers — Seaman 1 (Akin). Manhattan 5 (Ehie 2, Crusinberry 2, Thompson).