The Manhattan High boys’ basketball team fought on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough.
For the second time this season, the Indians were dealt a double-digit loss by Emporia. It doesn’t get any easier Friday.
MHS will conclude its regular season at Topeka High on Friday, against a Trojans team that might be the most talented in the Centennial League.
No, the Trojans won’t win the league crown this season — which was won outright by Hayden on Tuesday. But from top to bottom, MHS coach Tim Brooks said they present more challenges than most teams in the league.
“They are athletic and also talented, and they can beat you in a lot of ways,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough game.”
The Indians are currently sitting as the No. 7 team in their sub-state pool. With a 9-10 record, MHS is likely to play Derby, Topeka High or Washburn Rural in the first round.
But it has to focus on this week’s game first.
Despite the loss Tuesday, the Indians are seeing some positive things. Senior Deante Burton continues to play well, finishing just shy of registering his fifth game in double figures. Senior Jacob Sobering scored a season-high eight points against the Spartans, and looked like he could be a defensive force.
But maybe the most impressive was freshman Payton Stephens, who scored seven of his nine points in the third quarter and slowed down Emporia’s top scorer.
Brooks said guys are starting to play well at the right time.
“It’s a nice luxury to have,” he said. “We’ve just got to do what we do and just battle through our tough times and play good defense.”
The Trojans have looked like a team to beat all season. After a season-opening loss to Olathe South, the Trojans won five straight games before spoiling a lead and losing to Hayden late — a loss that paved the Wildcats path to the title.
Topeka high was second in the Topeka Invitational Tournament, losing to the same Wichita Sunrise Academy team that routed MHS to start the season.
The Trojans won five straight games after that before losing close to Washburn Rural and letting a poor shooting night turn into a 58-31 loss to Highland Park. The Trojans have beaten Junction City and Topeka West since then.