Manhattan High girls’ basketball coach Scott Mall didn’t want his team to underestimate the Shawnee Heights Thunderbirds Friday night.
Despite struggling to close out the game in the fourth quarter, his Indians did just that, beating the T-Birds 43-31 to stay unbeaten in Centennial League play and win its 13th straight game.
“I don’t think it was the strongest game we’ve played recently, but we had to battle through a lot of things,” Mall said. “We have a lot of girls that are kind of fatigued for different reasons right now, so that was tough.”
MHS (15-1, 10-0 Centennial) controlled the game from the first quarter on, with Darby Price leading the charge on both sides of the floor.
Price scored 22 of Manhattan’s 43 points and grabbed 10 of its 35 rebounds for a double-double.
“I thought she did a super job,” Mall said. “I thought she just ruled the defensive boards, she made some really good defensive plays when they tried to get the ball inside, and offensively did a good job of scoring and finding open girls. With what they were doing, that was a real key.”
While Manhattan was never really threatened in the fourth quarter, Shawnee Heights cut the Manhattan lead to six midway through the third period. They couldn’t sustain the momentum into the fourth, though, despite the Indians missing an unusual amount of free throws down the stretch.
Manhattan led by as many as 17 before the T-Birds cut into the lead by taking advantage of some turnovers and knocking down tough shots, while the Indians missed from the charity stripe. MHS finished the quarter 6 of 12.
“We didn’t shoot them as well as we have,” Mall said of his team’s free-throw shooting. “I think we can shoot them better than that — we have shot them better than that. We have some girls who are good shooters who just weren’t quite on top of them tonight, and they will be, and they have been.”
While Shawnee Heights hit the first basket of the game for a 3-0 lead, they would go nearly 7 1/2 minutes without scoring, with Price and the Indians taking advantage for an 11-3 lead.
In the second quarter, Manhattan’s lead got as high as 17 before the T-Birds stole a bit of momentum at the end of the quarter with a 4-0 run that made it 25-15 going into the break.
“Late in the first half when we let them push the ball and get layups and offensive rebounds,” Mall said. “I thought our defense did a good job and kept us in the ballgame when offensively we weren’t as sharp as we normally are.”
Shawnee Heights (7-7, 3-5) was led by Blaize Burgess’ 13 points, which came on 3-of-12 shooting, with freshman post Jazz Sweet scoring 10 and grabbing eight rebounds.
Between the 6-foot-1 Sweet and 6-4 freshman Megan Cooney, the T-Birds made things tough inside for the Indians with long arms and several blocked shots, which Manhattan countered with its quickness.
“That’s always big if you can get the shot up before those long arms come into play,” Mall said.
Shawnee Heights finished the night 9 of 39 (23 percent) from the field and 3 of 10 from behind the arc.
Facing a zone defense much of the game, Manhattan shot 13 of 39 (33 percent) from the field, but just 1 of 10 from long range.
“We had some good looks and got the ball in good spots and didn’t hit shots,” Mall said. “It hurt when Par (McNair) was out with foul trouble because she makes so many things happen for us offensively. And it was hard to get in any rhythm the way the foul situation was going. It was hard to get in a rhythm with what we could do on offense and what we couldn’t do on defense.”
The Indians were whistled for 22 fouls in the game, with Shawnee Heights committing 20. The teams combined to shoot 48 free throws.
Manhattan hosts Junction City (3-13, 1-8) on Tuesday night in a rivalry game.