MHS girls cruise past Junction City

By Grant Guggisberg

After a disappointing game against Hayden on Tuesday, Manhattan High girls’ basketball coach Scott Mall was hoping his team would come out with more fire Friday night.

With rival Junction City in town, motivation proved to be a non-issue, as the Indians dispatched the Blue Jays 49-25.

“They came into this game really focused and ready to go,” Mall said. “Maybe it helps that we’re playing Junction, but they took that loss hard and wanted to come back and show that they were better than that.”

Mall said the team was responsive to criticism following the Hayden loss, with each girl making it a point to fix their mistakes.

“They were a little down on Wednesday, but we watched the film and they came out and worked hard,” Mall said. “Then last night, they were all making a point to work on things that they saw on the film and knew they needed to get better at.”

Manhattan (7-1, 3-1 Centennial) was the better team from the opening tip, holding Junction City (3-5, 2-2) without a field goal until the second quarter while jumping out to a 14-2 lead behind six points from Kristen Thompson. Even more importantly, Manhattan was able to get some key Junction City players in foul trouble early, which made what was an already uphill climb, that much tougher.

“I thought that was really big, because they’ve got two wins in a row coming in, so if they come out and get right after it, you never know how they’re going to play,” Mall said. “They might step up and hit a lot more shots, so that was very important.”

With all those fouls came free throws. Manhattan finished 22 of 33 from the line, but Elayna Spilker, who led all scorers with 18 points, finished 12 of 14 from the charity stripe.

“Elayna got a lot of those, because when they gave her any opening, she was aggressive with the ball and one, she hit her free throws, and two, she got their girls in foul trouble,” he said. “Those are things Elayna can do. She keeps working on her outside shot, which is good, but if you give her any opening at all, she’s going to go to the basket.”

Darby Price had eight points for Manhattan, while freshman A’kia Fain led Junction City with nine points and Kori Kamm finished with seven. Junction City’s pair of posts, Peyton Pender and Shanna Witt, combined to score seven points on 3 of 16 shooting as the Indian defense keyed in on them, even outside the paint.

“I thought we did a good job, especially with their big girls outside, because our big girls don’t typically guard out there,” Mall said. “I thought we really did a good job on those girls, of keeping them from doing what they wanted to do. Witt didn’t get as many shots as she usually does — our girls did a good job against her.”

After a dominant first quarter, the two teams played even in the second before Manhattan pulled away in the second half. Junction City had nine second-half turnovers after only two each in the first and second quarters.

Junction City coach Justin Hoover said his girls never had much chance to establish rhythm with so many fouls.

“Manhattan’s obviously a good team and they put you in positions where you have to guard really hard and we were unfortunate in we had a lot of our big girls in foul trouble and that put us at a disadvantage,” Hoover said. “We were already at a disadvantage, so you don’t want to see that happen.”

Manhattan had foul issues of its own, with Price and Caroline Ballard both picking up early fouls, which forced Mall to rely on some bench players.

“We had to play a long stretch of the game in the second quarter with Stephanie (Shanower) and Katie (Proctor) in there together, and they did a real good job of battling hard on the boards and playing good ball,” Mall said. “Savannah Roberts had more minutes because Savannah Thaemert was sick, but she played real well off the bench, and then we were getting real worn, so we brought in Molly Fiser for her first real varsity action, and she comes in and hits a shot, gets a big rebound.

“Those were big things.”

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