MHS boys basketball suffers first league loss to Highland Park

By Maria McIlwain

Highland Park had an answer for everything Manhattan did Friday night.

The Scots beat the Indians, 49-38, in a game that started out as a defensive battle.

Highland Park came out on top by one point after a back-and-forth first quarter. The Indians grabbed a three-point lead in the second quarter but watched it evaporate as the Scots closed out the half with a 7-0 run. Highland Park took a four-point lead on a deep 3-pointer by Dasani Giardina at the buzzer. He led Highland Park with 13 points. Larry White recorded 12, with 10 coming on free throws.

“We just needed to find some continuity on offense, and we just couldn’t do it tonight,” head coach Benji George said.

He said his team didn’t move the ball or make cuts well, and the issues on offense carried over to the defensive side of the ball.

Cade Roberts stood out again for Manhattan, putting up 14 points, and Tommy Ekart added a 10-point performance.

“Cade continues to be who we need him to be,” George said. “We expect that from him. Tonight, we needed other guys to step up, and it was just a tough night. The game’s about putting the ball in the hole, and we just couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket tonight.”

He added that the Indians’ thrilling overtime win against Topeka High on Tuesday could have hampered the team.

“Maybe that was part of the problem, that we need to learn how to handle success, I don’t know, and the team will be honest with me about that,” George said.

Will White opened the second half with a 3-pointer for Highland Park, and the Scots’ lead grew as high as 10 in the third quarter. Manhattan came alive offensively toward the end of the period, but couldn’t sustain it. The Indians trimmed their deficit to seven points in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get any closer, while Highland Park extended its lead by making free throws.

Manhattan was called for numerous blocking fouls, but George wants his team to stay aggressive on defense.

“Officials have a hard job to do,” George said. “We tell our guys, ‘You have to continue to try and take them. You might get the call, you might not.’”

Despite the loss, George remains optimistic and said his veteran team has handled adversity well in the past. The Indians fall to 15-2 (2-1 Centennial League), while Highland Park improves to 14-3 (2-1 Centennial League).

“It was frustrating,” George said. “We’re all frustrated and all of that, but we’re going to have to move on because we’ve got a good opponent coming in on Tuesday.”

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