MHS boys excited for trip back to state tourney

By Maria McIlwain

The excitement hasn’t worn off for the Manhattan boys basketball team about three days after its thrilling 47-45 sub-state championship victory over Washburn Rural.

The No. 2-seeded Indians (18-4) are in the state tournament for the first time since 2010, and will face No. 7 seed Lawrence at 3 p.m. on Wednesday in Wichita.

“I think we are confident enough to compete but humble enough to prepare,” head coach Benji George said.

Manhattan comes into the state tournament riding high. The Indians captured their third straight Centennial League championship with a 55-46 win over Shawnee Heights on Feb. 24 to close out the regular season. Saturday’s win over Washburn Rural also avenged Manhattan’s last loss, which came, 53-41, on Feb. 7. Since then, Manhattan has won eight straight games.

Manhattan has had its fair share of close matchups this season, such as the 70-64 overtime win against Topeka High on Jan. 3 or the 78-72 offensive battle against Shawnee Heights where senior point guard Trevor Hudgins recorded a career high 29 points.

George said the senior leadership on the team is a major asset. That starts with the two top scorers, Hudgins and Tommy Ekart. Hudgins averages just over 15 points per game, while Ekart records 14.2. However, George said Manhattan relies on leadership from the other four seniors, too.

Lawrence is a young, efficient-shooting team led by point guard/shooting guard Jack Mall. The Lions also feature a “monster” in the 6-foot-7, 300-pound Kobe Buffalomeat, who leads the team in rebounds.

“They’re a great offensive rebounding team,” George said. “They play really well in transition because they’re athletic, and then they’re deep.”

George thinks his team can wear Buffalomeat out by making him work on defense. Guarding him on the other side of the court will be 6-foot-7 Cade Roberts.

“We’re fortunate that Cade is 6’7,” George said. “Not many teams have that length.”

George knows the Indians have to stay focused on one game at a time, but that has come easily to his team all year.

“If we don’t take care of business against Lawrence High, you’re going home anyway,” he said.

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