It seemed all too familiar for Manhattan High girls’ basketball coach Scott Mall.
Last season, his team was rolling along when Mari Jo Massanet suffered an injury at Topeka West during a week that featured three games. The injury caused Massanet to miss a few games, and the Indians struggled to get their offense going without her.
The MHS senior went down with a knee injury in Friday’s win home win over Topeka Seaman, helping the Indians take a two-game lead in the Centennial League standings.
But without Massanet on Saturday, the Indians lost to then-No. 1 in Class 5A Salina Central.
The Mustangs, led by sophomore guard and Kansas State recruit Shaelyn Martin, beat the Indians 34-23, constantly turning away runs from Manhattan that threatened to bring the team back into the game.
Now the Indians will look towards Tuesday’s road contest at Topeka Hayden, featuring a Wildcats team that is two games being MHS in the league standings at 7-2 and 11-5 overall.
Manhattan will attempt to hold on to its two game lead at 9-0 and 14-2 overall, whether it has Massanet or not.
While Hayden might not be as good as it has been in the past, it still features a handful of playmakers that have helped the team position itself for a late run at the league crown.
The Wildcats split their first four games of the season, beating Emporia and Basehor-Linwood, but losing to Seaman and Highland Park — their only league losses of the season.
Hayden scored three straight wins over Emporia, Junction City and Topeka High leading into the Burlington Invitational, but the Wildcats were knocked around in tournament play.
The Wildcats defeated Labette County, but got routed by Burlington and lost in a close game to Santa Fe Trail to finish fourth.
Hayden resumed regular play with a trio of non-league games, beating Ottawa before losing to Holton, and finishing up with a win over St. James Academy.
In the month of February, the Wildcats have beaten Highland Park, Junction City and Topeka West to prepare for a matchup with the league’s top team in Manhattan.
The Indians have four games on the schedule to try and defend the two-game lead, with just one of those games at home. The Hayden, Emporia and Topeka High games will all be played on the road, while this Friday’s game against Shawnee Heights will be the home finale.
If the Indians finish second of third in the sub-state table — as they currently trail Class 6A No. 1 Wichita Heights — they would host a home game in the first round. Sub-state finals will be played at Topeka High.