MCPHERSON — With no regular contributors standing taller than 5-foot-11, it’s not every night the Manhattan High girls’ basketball team has a size advantage over its opponent.
In Thursday afternoon’s opener at McPherson’s Mid-America Classic, Manhattan used a strong rebounding edge to defeat Hays, 60-24, in a game that wasn’t close past the first quarter.
With a 45-27 overall rebounding advantage and a 22-6 advantage on the offensive boards, the top-seeded Indians took nearly twice as many shots as their Indian counterparts to win comfortably.
Manhattan (10-1, 7-0 Centennial) got off to a slow start, but built a 28-9 lead by halftime and outscored Hays 19-2 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
MHS was led by Darby Price, who logged a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Caroline Ballard also came close, with 13 points and nine boards.
Manhattan head coach Scott Mall said Price’s aggressiveness on the boards was the key to her big day.
“She did a good job of going to the boards,” Mall said, “and keeping the ball alive and getting to the ball.”
Hays (0-11) was led by Audra Schmeidler’s eight points.
While the outcome was never in doubt, Manhattan only led 11-4 after the first quarter, with 12 missed shots and four missed free throws. The Indians tried to keep pace with Hays in the turnover department by coughing up the ball seven times. They would finish the half with just seven total turnovers, however.
Mall attributed the slow start to a sense of entitlement.
“Defensively, we were trying to take shortcuts, like, ‘oh, we can steal the ball, because they haven’t won a game,’” Mall said. “Well, it doesn’t work that way.”
Facing a 3-2 zone most of the afternoon, Manhattan struggled to hit open shots, finishing the first half 10 of 32 before turning it on in the second half.
Early, Manhattan’s best option was to throw up a shot and let Price or Amara Ehie go after the offensive rebound and put back.
“I thought that really helped us in the second half,” Mall said of his team’s offensive rebounding. “We still had some in the first half, but I was disappointed that one, because of where we shot the ball, we didn’t have as many offensive rebounders, but it just seemed like we weren’t going after the ball as hard as we need to.
“I thought in the second half we did a better job of that.”
Hays’ undoing was its turnovers against Manhattan’s defensive pressure. Hays finished with 31 turnovers, while Manhattan had just 16, seven of which came in the opening quarter.
“In the first half, we forced some things sometimes, which hurt us turnover-wise,” Mall said. “We forced some passes and we didn’t throw it inside when we were open.
“We have to do a better job of that. Sixteen turnovers against a team that plays zone in the halfcourt isn’t going to get it done.”
Manhattan also got plenty of minutes for its regular reserves and some its freshmen who typically play JV. The Indians had 11 girls score in the game.
“It was nice to work those girls in there, then the last 5 1/2 minutes it was those younger girls that haven’t played as much,” Mall said. “So that was good for them, and it’s good for the other girls to save legs for the next two nights.”
The Indians advance to play Shawnee Mission South, which won 53-36 in its opening-round game over Wichita Northwest.
Mall said SM South is a dangerous 3-point shooting team.
“They play a tough man-to-man, and they press all the time,” Mall said. “They shoot the 3. They have one girl who hasn’t shot a 3 this year, so they really look to shoot outside. We’ll have to adjust our defense to play different on some screens, because they shoot it really well.”
Today’s game against SM South is set to begin at 6 p.m. in McPherson.