After dropping a winnable game at Hayden on Tuesday night, Manhattan High boys’ basketball coach Tim Brooks delivered a warning to his players.
He said they’d sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk about the way the team played and the direction this team has gone in its two straight losses.
With a trip to much-improved Junction City tonight and a rivalry game on the docket, Brooks hopes his message was heard loud and clear.
“They’re a lot better than they’ve been the last two or three years,” he said. “They’ve got as much talent as anybody in the league, and they’re playing pretty well. They’ve got size, they’ve got shooters and their point guard (Tanner) Lueker is really crafty and creative and has come a long way since his freshman year.
“It’s going to be tough, it’ll be a tough environment over there and once again we’ve got a target on our back and we’ve got to respond.”
Brooks said if his team overlooks the Blue Jays, who held on to beat Topeka High 60-59 Tuesday night, his squad will struggle.
“We could be in trouble,” Brooks said. “If we don’t do the things that got us that five-game win streak, we’ll be in trouble. We struggled (Tuesday) with carryover from timeouts to running things on the floor, and we’ve got to get better at that.”
Brooks wants to see better execution after timeouts and commitment to the plays that are called instead of constant improvising.
“The first is just executing what we call,” he said. “We had a number of times where we would call something, then somebody would break it down before the play was exhausted. We need to exhaust the play, and then, if nothing’s there, see what we can do to make a play.”
Junction City (4-3, 2-1 Centennial) only have one league loss, to favorite Highland Park, while another loss to undefeated Hays early in the season came by just one point.
For the Manhattan girls, the matchup with Junction City is bound to be different than usual because of a coaching change.
Justin Hoover is no longer coaching the Blue Jays, with assistant Nate Parks taking over this summer. Manhattan head coach Scott Mall said he doesn’t know what to expect from the Blue Jays.
“I don’t know much about them with the new coach,” Mall said. “I know they have some good, young players that are playing well for them, and I know the Kori Kamm girl is a really tough, quality player. She makes a lot of good, quality plays for them, so I’m sure it’ll be a battle again.”
In years past, Manhattan has had to deal with a pair of quality post players in Peyton Pender and Shanna Witt, but those girls were seniors last year.
“They don’t have as many big girls, which they’ve kind of run a different sort of offense even with the big girls,” Mall said. “So I’m sure it’ll change things and they’ll be more guard-oriented. I know they have some young girls that are really quick and they’ll be aggressive, we just have to play solid ball and take advantage when they do make a mistake.”
The Manhattan girls are scheduled to tip at 6:15 p.m., with the boys’ game to follow.