After starting Centennial League play on Friday against Shawnee Heights, the Manhattan High basketball teams return home to face Topeka Hayden Tuesday.
For the girls’ team, the matchup with Hayden is another test as they put a 17-game winning streak against league foes on the line.
Hayden is 4-1 on the year and joins Manhattan and Topeka Seaman as the only teams in the league at 2-0, so the challenge is there for the Indians.
The Wildcats’ one loss on the year came to Holton 47-33 in the second game of the season. The biggest win of their season came following that loss in a 45-41 win against Washburn Rural.
Hayden is led by Sarah Pimentel offensively. She led the team with 16 points in a win against Topeka West on Friday. Otherwise, the Wildcats rely on a balanced attack that feeds off of its defense.
For Manhattan, correcting mistakes it made against Shawnee Heights could be the difference between winning and losing on Tuesday.
Head coach Scott Mall wants his team to be more careful with the ball, and to make the easy passes.
“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.”
On the boys’ side, Manhattan will have its hands full against a talented Hayden team that has just one loss, 38-37 to Washburn Rural. The Wildcats are still adjusting to the loss of three starters off last year’s team, but have talent on the court nonetheless.
Boys’ coach Tim Brooks said Hayden’s biggest strength is its consistency.
“Just like last year, they do a great job of executing what they want,” he said. “They get the ball where it needs to go. If they’re trying to run a set to get a 3, they do a great job with it. If they’re running a set to get the ball inside, they do well with that too.
“They’re very disciplined and they play very hard.”
Hayden is led by Tanner Triggs with nearly 16 points a game and deadly accuracy from beyond the arc.
For the Indians, continuing to integrate sophomore Payton Stephens, who played in his first game against Shawnee Heights Friday, into the offense is key. Stephens led the team with 18 points and proved to be a tough matchup for the undersized Thunderbirds, though as the season goes on and film of Stephens accumulates, he will see more and more defensive attention.
Having already played a talented Emporia team, as well as Derby in the season opener, Brooks didn’t say whether Tuesday’s matchup with Hayden would be the toughest of the young season, but he expects a challenge.
“Every game is different,” he said. “(Shawnee Heights) was a test because of how they play offense. Hayden’s a different test, because of how they play offense and are so disciplined. Every game that we play, the opponent plays a little differently than the previous opponent that we played. Everyone’s a test.”