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MHS drops opening game of tournament

By Grant Guggisberg

Manhattan head coach Tim Brooks knows his team is comfortable playing in its own gym.

It’s other teams’ gyms that have been the problem for the Indians, and against an athletic and much bigger team in Blue Valley West on Thursday, it didn’t take long for the Manhattan High boys’ basketball team to stumble out of the gates in a neutral-site game.

“I think that, once again, this is what we do on the road,” Brooks said in his postgame radio interview. “I guess it’s my job as the head coach to find out how to change it. We’re going to look for different ways, believe me.”

Manhattan lost its McPherson Invitational Basketball Tournament opener to Blue Valley West 55-45 in a game that got out of hand early for the Indians.

Manhattan came out flat from the start, trailing 15-4 after the first quarter and seeing that deficit grow to as many as 23 in the second quarter. At halftime, a switch flipped for the Indians, who outscored the Jaguars 13-2 in the third quarter to make it a game and cut the lead to single digits, but it was too little too late.

“I guess it shows character, but why can’t we show that character early?” Brooks said of his team’s comeback attempt. “Why do we have to wait so long?

“They’ve got pride — we just lose focus. They were talking about coming back against Derby in this situation, which we did, but we shouldn’t be in that situation.”

As expected, Manhattan had no answer for 6-foot-7 post Joey Lillis, who scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds. It also helped that the Jaguars were making shots early and the Indians were not. Blue Valley West finished the first two quarters shooting 70 percent from the floor, while Manhattan shot 30 percent.

Manhattan was led by Jacob Holloway’s 11 points, with Payton Stephens chipping in 10. Chris Hudgins scored eight. Manhattan was outscored in the paint 28-10.

Part of Manhattan’s game plan was to throw some zone looks at the Jaguars, but such a large deficit made that impossible.

In the second game of the tournament, top-seeded Shawnee Mission East took care of business against Maize, 64-47. McPherson beat Lawrence Free State 53-44 in the third game and Wichita Heights got past sixth-seeded Hutchinson in overtime, 50-45 in the late game.

Brooks said now his team must find a way to regroup overnight, as they face eighth-seeded Maize in today’s consolation semifinal.

“It’s gut-check time now,” Brooks said. “You really see what you’re made of now when you’ve got to play at 3 o’clock on back-to-back days in the middle of the afternoon. It’s not ideal, it’s not what you want, but it’s the situation that you’re in.

“You’ve got to put the past behind you and make the best of what’s in front of us.”

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