When it comes to basketball, Darian Taylor embraces his role.
Nobody expects him to average double-figure scoring or make flashy plays on offense. His coaches expect him to be in the right spots and do all the little things that help the Manhattan High boys’ basketball team win games on a regular basis.
In a Monday night make-up game against Washburn Rural, Taylor did the same things he always does — but he also scored a career-high 15 points in a 76-55 rout of the Junior Blues.
“I pride myself on being a hustle man on the court, and in every sport I play,” Taylor said. “With basketball, I just try to be a role player and do whatever I can and be in the right spots. My teammates put me in a great position to be successful, and that’s what happened.”
Taylor was active on the boards, scoring on three put-backs, and had nine points at halftime, while also bringing energy to the defensive end of the floor that proved to be contagious.
“He’s not only our energy guy, but a glue guy and a hustle guy,” Manhattan assistant coach Benji George said. “He does so many little things well, and he’s been a great leader for us, especially lately. Not just in the points he scores, but in all the little things that show up as well.”
Manhattan (10-4, 6-2 Centennial) shot more than 50 percent for the second straight game, this time finishing 30 of 51 (59 percent) from the floor and 6 of 8 from long range, while making 11 of 13 fourth-quarter shots.
Washburn Rural (3-11, 2-7) finished the game 19 of 44 (43 percent) and 4 of 15 from behind the arc.
Joining Taylor in double-figure scoring were Gabe Awbrey and Pierson McAtee with 16 points apiece.
Washburn Rural had just one player scoring in double figures, with Blake Peterson pouring in 20.
Manhattan came out sluggish in the first quarter, falling behind early and ultimately tying the game at 18 heading into the second period. From there, it was all Indians.
Just as it did on Friday against Topeka High, Manhattan used a strong run to end the second quarter and go into halftime with all the momentum and a big lead.
This time it was Awbrey doing the work, hitting a pair of free throws and swishing a 3-pointer before Chris Martin’s put-back on a Taylor miss gave Manhattan a 34-22 lead at the break.
“We were running our offense and my teammates were able to find me in the open spots, and I was lucky enough to hit them down tonight,” Awbrey said. “It helps to be in the right spots and get the looks that I want.”
Manhattan opted to go to its man-to-man defense exclusively in the second period, which worked out as the Indians outscored Rural 16-4 in the second period.
“We were able to go on a great stretch again,” George said. “We didn’t call timeout this time, so really it was the guys deciding to get on the same page. When we decided to bring energy on the defensive end of the floor, everything changed for us.”
In the second half, Washburn Rural never seriously challenged the Indians, never cutting the lead to single digits as the home team continued to bury shots. The Indians made their first nine shots of the fourth quarter to build up a lead that ballooned to as many as 23.
“We shot the ball well, we shared the ball well,” George said. “We’ve got guys that are so unselfish.”
In a week that features three games in five days, Manhattan also got the luxury of emptying its bench in the fourth quarter, with players like Trevor Hudgins, Tyler Daveline, Grant Munsen, Cole Dillon, AJ Pablo and Zach Francis seeing time near the end. Hudgins knocked down a 3-pointer, while Pablo got a pair of good looks near the basket to score four points.
“We really talked about it beforehand, trying to be cautious with minutes if we got the chance to do that,” George said. “It was great that we were able to.”
With Topeka West coming to town tonight, the Indians will do their best to scout their opponent on short rest.
“I’ve been doing a crash course on the Topeka West film, and obviously our guys don’t know anything at this point,” George said. “We’re going to try and watch some film tomorrow and get everybody on the same page. They’re a little different — they try to make it a full-court game a little more and play a little more zone, so we’ll have to get ready for that.”