You don’t have to be a basketball expert to know that converting 70 percent of your shots over the course of an entire game leads to good results.
The Manhattan High boys’ basketball team did just that Friday night, shooting 28 of 40 from the floor in a 66-35 blowout of the Emporia Spartans to stay undefeated on the season heading into Christmas break.
“Our guys move the ball pretty well and we find the open man,” Manhattan head coach Tim Brooks said. “We’ve got some pretty unselfish players and we’ve got guys that can shoot it. They go to where their strengths are. They don’t try to do things they can’t do.”
Manhattan took a 12-4 lead after the first quarter and led 22-10 at halftime, before really blowing the game open in the second half. The Indians went on an 8-0 run in the final minutes of the third quarter to lead 44-24 and only increased that lead in the final period.
“I think we were more deliberate offensively, and our defense created some opportunities as well, which got us a little more comfortable,” Brooks said. “I thought we were patient when we caught it in the post, and we let things happen instead of trying to force things to happen like we did in the first half.”
The Indians (4-0) were led by Alex Stitt’s 15 points, with Payton Stephens chipping in 14 points.
As well as MHS shot from the floor, it was even better from long range, finishing 7 of 9, with Gabe Awbrey going 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.
“He’s a shooter,” Brooks said of Awbrey. “He does a lot of things for us, but he finds his feet right behind the arc and he does a good job.”
Emporia was led by John Williams with 12 points. Tanner Taylor and Cody Campbell added eight points each.
For the Spartans, it’s been an adjustment for a variety of new faces on varsity. Last year, Emporia had a team loaded with seniors and high-level talent. That group of seniors played most of the varsity minutes a season ago, which left this year’s team mostly JV minutes as underclassmen.
As a result, the learning curve has been steeper than usual for the Spartans, who tried to slow the game down and do everything deliberately on offense. That left MHS playing plenty of defense, with many possessions lasting much longer than usual.
“The first half was pretty ugly, and that’s the way Emporia wanted it,” Brooks said. “We tried to speed them up with some traps and things like that, and I think Gabriel kept us in it there with a couple 3s there in the second quarter, otherwise it would have been real messy.”
Emporia struggled to keep its intensity up through the entire game.
“We’ve played well in spurts but we’ve had a hard time putting a full 32 minutes together,” Emporia coach Beau Welch said. “Tonight, I thought we competed for about 17 minutes. We need to be able to extend that into the third and fourth quarters.”
The final score was recorded in the scorebook as 64-35, but other scorebook keepers (including The Mercury) had point totals that equaled 66 for Manhattan.
Regardless of the margin of victory, Friday’s win was the fourth straight comfortable victory to start the season, which while encouraging, also leaves some mystery for how the team will perform when the score is closer at the end.
“The thing I worry about, is we’ve had games like this all the time, I worry about how we’ll be when we’re tested,” Brooks said. “We talk about being tough, hopefully that toughness comes through when we’re tested.”
For Manhattan, the team had two goals for the first portion of the season, which ended Friday night, to stay undefeated at home and be 4-0 heading into break. In finishing the semester undefeated, those goals are now complete.
With nearly three weeks before their next game, the Indians can start focusing on their next set of goals over the break.
“I think we’re going to add some things offensively and defensively,” Brooks said. “We do that throughout the season and the Christmas break is a great time to do that. It’s tough, because we have some momentum here, but a break might be nice.”
Manhattan makes a trip to Washburn Rural on Jan. 7 following the holiday break.
Winston Dimel, who is committed to play football at Kansas State next year, needs surgery on his shoulder, but is still debating about when to go under the knife.
Originally, Dimel had planned to have Friday’s game against Emporia be his last, but said after the game that he is still looking at all his options and would talk to his family during break.
“This may not be my last game,” Dimel said. “I don’t’ really know yet. I’m still thinking about it.”
The crowd was especially supportive of Dimel Friday, shouting his name during the game and surrounded him and repeatedly took his picture paparazzi-style when he came out of the locker room after the game.
“It was nice, I love them all,” Dimel said of the students. “They’re great people.”
Despite Dimel’s uncertainty, the Indians did get Bret Fehr back from injury for the first time all season. He scored two points.
“He was pretty good,” Brooks said. “He was rusty, which we expected, but he practiced throughout the course of the week and he did some nice things.”