Coming into Tuesday’s matchup against Topeka West, Manhattan head coach Scott Mall was hoping his team would get the chance to lead comfortably and work on things that until now, had only been utilized in practice.
With a 30-0 lead part way through the second quarter before even allowing a Topeka High basket, the Indians got their chance.
“We ran a couple of offensive plays and inbounds plays we haven’t had the chance to get into a game, so it was nice to get those girls out and get comfortable running plays we don’t normally run,” Mall said. “We played a lot of zone tonight, which we haven’t. So that was good to see that in a game situation instead of just at practice.”
The Chargers were no match for the No. 3 team in Class 6A, going scoreless until the 5:59 mark of the second quarter and dropping the game 60-17 to the Indians.
The Indians led 37-7 at halftime and 48-10 going into the fourth quarter. Manhattan’s group of seldom-used underclassmen finished the game strong, outscoring Topeka West 12-7.
“We really stressed beforehand to come out and play like we always do,” Mall said. “Be focused, try and do the things we want to do. The last thing you want is — we felt like we were better than Topeka West — you don’t want to let a team like that feel good, like I thought we did when we played Hays.”
Manhattan (14-1, 9-0 Centennial) stayed undefeated in league play while extending its current win streak to 11 games. Caroline Ballard scored 16 for the Indians, with Darby Price adding 13. Eleven girls scored for Manhattan in the lopsided win.
“When we make that extra pass,” Mall said. “That’s when we look our best.”
Topeka West (1-14, 0-8) was led by Alex Tyson’s nine points.
“I thought defensively we did a pretty good job on Tyson, because she’s scored some points on people,” Mall said. “We really stressed that at practice.”
Topeka West turned the ball over 11 times in the first quarter while attempting just three shots. The Chargers finished the game with 27 turnovers even after Manhattan quit trying to force them.
Manhattan had just eight turnovers and shot 22 of 51 (43 percent) on the night, compared to Topeka West’s 6 of 36 (16 percent).
With several of his regulars on the bench for large chunks of the game, Tuesday’s matchup offered the chance to rest and gear up for the stretch run.
Manhattan has just five games left in the regular season, with trips to Shawnee Heights and Highland Park and three home games with visits from Junction City, Hayden and the Seaman Vikings in the final game of the regular season. Seaman is also undefeated in league play, setting up a potential showdown for the league title in the final game.
In the sub-state standings, the Indians have a much more comfortable lead, with a four-game advantage over Washburn Rural, who at 10-5, would earn the No. 2 seed at sub-state if the season ended today.
“We just have to keep working to get better,” Mall said. “We can’t have games where we don’t do things well and take a step back. If we want to be where we want to be late in the season, we need to keep getting better all the time, and every game and every practice is a chance to do that. The last week or so, the girls have really stepped up and done that.
“If we’re going to be successful in these last five games and do well after that, we have to keep getting better.”
Manhattan travels to Shawnee Heights on Friday for a 6 p.m. tip.