It didn’t come easy, but the Manhattan High girls’ basketball team is returning to state.
The Indians beat a scrappy Lawrence Free State team 48-39 in Friday’s sub-state final to advance to state for the second time in three years.
After trailing in the first quarter and going to halftime up one at 22-21, Manhattan looked more like its usual self in the second half, starting the third quarter with a 6-0 run.
But the Firebirds never gave up, cutting the lead to four by the end of the third and staying within a couple possessions for most of the fourth quarter.
The Indians finished off the game making 8 of 10 free throws in the final quarter to keep Free State at bay.
Manhattan was led by Caroline Ballard’s 13 points, with Darby Price and Amara Ehie each adding seven.
Free State got 21 points from Madison Piper and 15 points from Scout Wiebe.
With a 21-2 record, Manhattan and Wichita South are tied for the top two records among qualifying Class 6A teams. Manhattan will either draw eighth-seeded Shawnee Mission West (13-9) or seventh-seeded Washburn Rural (15-7). Manhattan swept Rural in the regular season, but won close games both times.