Indians pull away late, win 51-35

By Grant Guggisberg

TOPEKA — It took the Manhattan High girls’ basketball team three quarters of basketball against Shawnee Heights to get over a break-induced sluggish streak Friday night.

Then in the fourth, the Indians snapped out of it, outscoring the Thunderbirds 16-4 in the final period to win easily and stay undefeated.

“It was good to get a win, on the road, in league to start after break, so that was nice,” Manhattan coach Scott Mall said. “But we were really sluggish — we’ve got some illness going through that slowed us down.

Mall often looked perplexed as his girls made unforced turnovers early in the game.

“We made some errors that we don’t normally make that we did ourselves,” he said. “But we made enough good plays to take advantage of what was there to more than make up for them, so that was good.”

Manhattan got 15 points each from Darby Price and Caroline Ballard, with Elayna Spilker chipping in 12. Shawnee Heights, on the other hand, stayed in the game with long-range shots, with Danielle Poblarp and Kelsey Morgan each scoring 10 points. Both of Poblarp’s 3s were from NBA range — or deeper.

Manhattan led 35-31 after three quarters, with Shawnee Heights taking the momentum into the final quarter with a buzzer-beater from just inside the halfcourt line.

But the Indians began to pull away as they found ways to score easy baskets in transition after missed 3s from the T-Birds. Shawnee Heights, after shooting 43 percent from 3 in the first three quarters went 0-5 from deep in the final period.

“I thought the real key was defensively, in the second quarter especially, we did a good job of trying to take away what they were trying to do,” Mall said. “We talked really well after the first quarter on switches and stuff, because they’re really quick and they shoot a lot of 3s. It’s hard to contain them.”

Both teams went ice cold for much of the second quarter, with neither team connecting on a field goal until Spilker hit a 3 at the 3:55 mark. From there, both teams figured things out, but it was Manhattan that built an eight-point halftime lead behind Price, who scored six of her 15 points late in the second quarter.

“That Price girl down on the block makes a big difference,” Shawnee Heights coach Bob Wells said. “She’s just so strong and when she did get it inside, it was hard to stop her.”

Price was good in the lane, as usual, but also converted 5 of 6 free throws.

“We were able to get Darby the ball inside and she shot free throws really well tonight, which is good,” Mall said. “In practice she’s our best free-throw shooter, so it’s good she’s doing that in a game.”

Neither team had much length, so Manhattan was able to establish itself in the paint. Price finished the night 5 of 11 from the field, while Ballard was 6 of 14 and Spilker finished 4 of 8.

“They’re not a big team so it was one of our advantages there on the boards,” he said. “We did a good job there. Darby kept a lot of balls alive and got rebounds, Caroline did a good job of crashing the boards from outside.”

In the end, getting a win against any league foe is the goal, and the Indians managed to get the job done. But Mall wants to see his girls make better decisions in future games.

“We had girls wide open and instead we tried something else with the ball that wasn’t going to work out so well,” Mall said. “It was frustrating, because there were things there that we normally see or do and we didn’t do. Those are plays we make all the time in games or in practice, and we just didn’t see them.

“It was frustrating, because I know the girls can make those plays.”

Manhattan hosts Hayden on Tuesday and Junction City on Friday this week.

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