TOPEKA — Tuesday night against Hayden, Manhattan High coach Tim Brooks was frustrated with a lack of effort from his team.
With everything on the line in the regular-season finale at Seaman, that changed for the Indians.
Manhattan won 59-50 at Seaman, overcoming an early deficit to take the lead in the third quarter and pull away in the fourth. The win ensured that Manhattan would finish ahead of Rural and be guaranteed the chance to host in the first round of sub-state.
“It’s a chance for our seniors to play at home again — they earned it,” Brooks said. “They all stepped up tonight and I think that it’s a positive reward for them to play at home again. We talked to them before the game and said this game tonight is why you play high-school basketball. It’s what it’s all about - everything’s on the line, there’s all kinds of importance to it, and our guys showed a lot of resiliency there in the second half and really played well.”
With Wichita Heights beating Kapaun on Friday 47-46 on a buzzer-beater, MHS flipped a coin to see which school earned the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. Like the girls, the Indians lost the coin flip, meaning they’ll host fifth-seeded Rural (10-9) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Had Manhattan earned the No. 3 seed, its path to state would be much easier, with a finals matchup against second-seeded Wichita East looking more appealing than a trip to top-seeded Derby, which is what the Indians would earn should they advance.
For Brooks and the Indians, just the chance to keep playing at home is enough. If a trip to Derby comes up later, they’ll tackle it when it comes.
“It’s pretty big for us and for our seniors,” Brooks said. “They earned the opportunity to play at home, so it’s important for them. We play better at home. I like the way our guys are focused when they play at home, so it should be to our advantage.”
Manhattan was able to put the game away in the fourth quarter, getting a timely 3-pointer from Blake Saville and great free-throw shooting effort down the stretch in a game that was chippy from the start.
Officials called 22 fouls in the first two quarters, with several instances of players being broken up or dropped to the floor after whistles had blown. For an Indian team chock full of football players and plenty of bench depth, it played to Manhattan’s advantage.
“We’ve been playing that way all year, and for another team to try and match our physicality is fine with us,” Brooks said. “We have guys that love to bang — even on the perimeter our guys like to play physical.”
MHS (11-9, 7-6 Centennial) had to play from behind in the first quarter, spotting Seaman (9-11, 6-7) an 11-point lead early behind 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting from Seaman’s Sean Higley. He would later cool off, but finished with 23 points as the only Viking player with more than five points on the night.
Manhattan had to steadily chip away at the Vikings’ lead, trimming it to two by halftime before going on a 12-0 run to take a 36-28 lead behind a pair of 3-pointers from Jacob Holloway and another trey by Jonathon Taylor.
Seaman cut the deficit to 40-38 to end the third quarter, but faded in the fourth behind 3s from Taylor and Saville and 9 of 12 free-throw shooting to close it out.
“I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Brooks said. “We know we stubbed our toe on Tuesday and came out today and played very smart, tough basketball.”
Chris Hudgins led the Indians with 13 points, while Holloway added 12 and Taylor chipped in 11. The Indians finished 6 of 7 from beyond the arc, while shooting 18 of 30 from the field. Seaman, on the other hand, finished 2 of 11 from long range.
“Jake, who’s been struggling the last week or so, got some open looks and knocked them down,” Brooks said. “We tried to get him going with a little set to start the half, and we did the same set to start the game just to get his confidence back, and he made some big shots in that run.”
Brooks said Taylor is especially good when his shot is on, because the defense has to adjust.
“We talked and he came into my office one day last week,” he said. “He was pretty passive against Hayden until the final five minutes, then he was pretty assertive. We thought tonight that he’d be able to get in the lane and be more aggressive, and he made very good decisions.
“When he’s able to knock down shots, it only helps him to get in the lane because they have to come out and guard him.”
Manhattan hosts Rural on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a rematch from earlier in the season. Rural beat the Indians 45-40 in the first matchup, but has not been playing its best basketball lately, snapping a four-game losing streak with a 44-42 win at home against Seaman on Tuesday.