It’s not often the Centennial League race comes down to a final game between unbeaten teams in a winner-take-all format.
Despite clinching the top seed at sub-state 10 days ago, the Manhattan High girls have had the league race to keep them motivated, with tonight’s 6 p.m. game against the Seaman Vikings a fitting ending to a race that has gone down to the wire.
While one team will enter sub-state play with a fresh loss, the other will be able to ride the momentum of not only a lengthy win streak, but an undefeated league title.
For Manhattan, success will come by staying the course and continuing to do the things that created the current 16-game win streak, even if it is against a team with size the Indians haven’t seen much of this season.
The Vikings feature one of the league’s top scorers in 5-foot-10 Tatyana Legette, averaging 14 points per game. Six-foot post Rachel Heald is also a force defensively while averaging 7.7 points a game. Guard Brooke McMillin completes the scoring leaders for Seaman with 11.2 points a game.
Manhattan head coach Scott Mall said facing the Vikings will be a unique challenge.
“It’s completely different,” he said. “We play so many teams that aren’t very big, but they’re the opposite. They’re intimidating because they’re so big. But we’ll have to play good defense, keep them away from what they want to do, and offensively, even though they’re big and might take away something, we’re still going to have to do what we do, get the ball where we want it and make shots like always.”
Manhattan’s Darby Price has led the way recently for the Indians, but along with Caroline Ballard, will have her hands full in the lane. Mall thinks his senior post will hold her own.
“Darby’s good at using her size to her advantage,” he said. “She’s really worked hard at that and has done a good job with that. Her and Caroline and all our forwards can do a good job as long as they don’t force things, which they don’t normally do.”
Last year, the Seaman game didn’t have league title implications, but it did affect Manhattan’s sub-state seeding. The Indians came up short, losing 41-37. Mall is hoping playing at home this year will be the difference.
“I thought we played pretty well last year, but they were playing really well last year,” he said. “Hopefully it will make the difference that it’s at home and we’re one year more experienced.”
For the Manhattan boys, winning tonight is important if the team hopes to host its first sub-state game. The team is currently in a three-way tie with Lawrence Free State for the No. 4 seed.
Co-interim coach Benji George said the Vikings, at 8-11 on the year, are better than their record reflects.
“They’ve been hot lately,” he said after Tuesday’s loss to Hayden. “They started off the year really struggling, but lately they’ve won a lot of games and are ahead of us in the league standings.”
Seaman lost to Washburn Rural in overtime Tuesday, but before that had won 3 of 4 games, beating Junction City, Emporia and Hayden while losing 66-55 to Highland Park.
Seaman is led by Joe Miller, who averages nearly 14 points a game, with Reid Morgart averaging 11 and Chase Bauer adding 10.
“We know that they’re very talented,” George said Tuesday night. “I don’t know much about them — I haven’t watched any film yet, but I do know they’ve won a lot of games lately and they’re very well-coached also, so we anticipate a similar style (to the Hayden game).”
Topeka High plays at Hayden tonight, with Lawrence Free State playing Lawrence High.
Should a three-way tie remain in the standings after tonight’s games, each athletic director will meet in Topeka for a random drawing for the No. 4 seed, with the two remaining teams using tiebreakers to decide who is No. 5 and No. 6.
If only a two-way tie remains, head-to-head results becomes the primary tiebreaker. Manhattan beat Topeka High, but has not played Free State.