Each team coming off a loss, the Manhattan High basketball teams will try to get back on track Friday night as they host the Topeka High Trojans.
While the two teams are in different places in terms of wins and losses, both the girls’ and boys’ teams are looking to bounce back from close losses in their last outings.
For the Manhattan girls, second place may have stung for a while, but the progress the Indians made in McPherson last week is hard to miss.
Caroline Ballard and Darby Price both played well in each game, shouldering the scoring load left by the absence of Elayna Spilker.
Against Topeka High (7-6, 3-3 Centennial), just continuing to play with that same confidence is important.
After a somewhat sluggish start to their season, the Trojans have come on lately, beating Emporia and Seaman in January while also taking third in the Thunderbird Classic, losing only to eventual winner Maize, which is ranked No. 2 in Class 6A in the latest KBCA rankings.
Needless to say, the Trojans have plenty of positive momentum moving forward.
Manhattan coach Scott Mall said he hopes his team can draw from the progress it made at the Mid-America Classic last week, where the Indians finished second in a tight championship game against top-ranked Olathe South without Spilker.
“It doesn’t get easier,” Mall said. “Topeka High is very talented, and they’ve started to play like people were expecting before the season started. It doesn’t get very easy, but hopefully we can build on things from the (McPherson) tournament.
Topeka High has a veteran squad, with Mandy Madden (11.2 ppg) and Jasmine Martindale (7.8 ppg) both providing experience and leadership. The Trojans also have a solid freshman contributor in Adrianna Henderson, who is scoring six points per game.
While this same group finished 10-11 last season, the Trojans are expecting bigger things this year, and lately, have delivered.
On the boys’ side, Topeka High (4-9, 2-4) is in much the same position as Manhattan. The Trojans are losers of five of their last six games, with the only win coming in an overtime victory against Washburn Rural last Friday, 58-52.
Like Manhattan, Topeka High has talent, but a string of tough losses has had its effects on the team.
Forward Raymond Solis is back for his senior campaign after leading the football team to one of its most successful seasons in recent memory. Solis averages 12.4 points per game to lead the team.
Kyle Rush and Adam Thompson have also been reliable scorers, averaging eight points and 6.3 points per game, respectively.
Manhattan High coach Tim Brooks said his offense, which has played well at times but not as consistently as he’d like, starts with getting the ball into the paint.
“No matter who we play, we want the ball to go inside,” he said. “You create some things that way — you create inside-out for shooters, because they’re already square when they receive the ball. Sometimes we can get the ball in the paint off penetration and we can either kick it or dip it down low, but when the ball is in the paint area, your offense is going to be a lot better.”
In the third quarter against Washburn Rural on Tuesday, his team played about as well as it has during its recent string of losses. Brooks said making sure they do those same things for an entire game is the key to turning things around.
“I think we were all in tune, we were playing together as one,” Brooks said “That’s how it’s got to be, it can’t be a part-time thing. It’s got to be an all-the-time thing.”