EMPORIA — With a big fourth-quarter run and shutdown defense on Emporia’s leading scorer, the Manhattan High girls had no problems on Tuesday night in a 56-26 victory on the road.
It was MHS coach Scott Mall’s 250th win of his career.
The Indians (17-2, 12-0) were already leading 38-18 going into the fourth quarter, and they didn’t let up in the opening 4 minutes, as they used a 12-2 run to put the game away.
But it wasn’t just the run that impressed Mall. It was the way his team did it. In what has become classic MHS style this season, the Indians ran the court and passed the ball crisply to create open looks all over the floor.
“I thought it was big in that stretch that we passed it well because they are so physical that we had to be aggressive,” he said. “We did that and we made so many extra passes because the girls were looking for it and making it happen.”
Another key to the game was the Indians’ defensive effort against Emporia’s Brianna Knight, who is the second-leading scorer in the Centennial League at 15.6 points per game.
With one defender on her at all times, and another shadowing her, Knight scored just five points for the Spartans, including shooting just 1-of-7 from the floor.
Mall said several players worked together to take her out of the game.
“That was one of the things we really focused on,” he said. “She is such a big part of their offense and one of the top scorers in our league, and she is tough to guard because she is so quick to the basket. But I thought our girls guarded her well.
“Darby (Price) did a nice job on her and Mari Jo (Massanet) laid off and kept the passes out, and our guards did a good job of helping.”
When Knight finally made her first basket from the field in the fourth quarter, the immediate body language of the players around her and Mall on the sideline seemed disappointed.
But he said it’s just because the team takes a lot of pride in doing things right.
“Our girls are really good at wanting to do it right,” he said. “Sometimes, you will see someone like Mari Jo make a mistake, and she is immediately pointing at herself and telling everyone, ‘my fault, my fault,’ and that’s just how they are.
“That’s why they keep improving and doing the things they want to do.”
Leading 29-12 going into the second half, Emporia appear as if it was going to make a run when it outscoring MHS 5-3 early on to cut the lead to 15 points.
But Kristen Thompson, Par McNair and Onyeka Ehie all hit shots from the floor in a stretch that saw Emporia score just one point from the free throw line, and it was 38-18 going into the final period.
Massanet led the Indians with 13 points — 11 which came in the first half — while Ehie had 11 and Price scored 10, including six in the fourth quarter.
The game started out hot for the Indians, and very cold for Emporia. Manhattan had a 6-0 lead in the first 2 minutes of the first quarter, and added three free throws to lead 9-0 with 3:08 to play.
Emporia used a 6-2 run to cut the score to 11-6, but the Indians outscored the Spartans 5-1 the rest of the way, scoring last on a 3 from Thompson.
The Indians used the second quarter to start putting the game away, opening on a 11-2 run to go ahead 27-9. Manhattan led 29-12 at the break, with Massanet leading the way with 11 points.
The Indians will finish up the regular season with another road trip, as they play at Topeka High on Friday.
MANHATTAN 56, EMPORIA 26
Manhattan 16 13 9 18 — 56
Emporia 7 5 6 8 — 26
MANHATTAN (56) — Massanet 13, Ehie 11, Price 10, Thompson 5, Pitchford 5, Spilker 4, Ballard 4, Proctor 2, McNair 2.
EMPORIA (26) — Wilhite 6, Knight 5, Bowman 4, Sanchez 3, Schaefer 3, Guion 3, Johnson 2.
3-pointers — Manhattan 2 (Thompson, Ehie). Emporia 2 (Wilhite, Guion).