TOPEKA — For much of the game Friday night, Manhattan High head girls’ basketball coach Scott Mall was unsatisfied with the Indians’ defensive effort.
But the final quarter made up for it.
It wasn’t always easy, but Manhattan managed to pull away from Topeka High and preserve its undefeated mark in Centennial League play with a 45-30 win on the road.
The Indians used an 11-0 run in the third and fourth quarters to pull away from the Trojans in a game that stayed close for most of the first three periods.
“In the first half, we made some mistakes early defensively and gave them some easy baskets, but in the second half, we didn’t give them those,” Mall said. “And offensively, when we just moved the ball and kept looking and looking, we got great shots and we were able to capitalize in the fourth quarter.”
Darby Price led the Indians with 14 points and seven rebounds, while Caroline Ballard scored 12 points and hauled in eight boards. Molly Fiser added nine points for MHS, including three 3-pointers.
Price finished the night 6 of 14 from the field, but was active on the boards and had several putbacks on offensive rebounds. The senior said she’s been working on finishing shots around the rim.
“Definitely finishing my shot, because I’ve had a rough time this season finishing around the basket,” Price said. “In (last week’s) tournament, I wanted to use the backboard more and get the bank shots in.”
Topeka High (7-7, 2-5 Centennial) was led by Mandy Madden’s 10 points, with top guard Adrianna Henderson scoring only six.
“She’s so quick to the basket,” Mall said of Henderson. “Last year we didn’t guard her well, but she missed a lot of shots. But our girls, starting with Savannah Roberts and Amara Ehie and Par (McNair) all guarded her, then we got great help off those ball screens.”
The game went back and forth all night until Manhattan created some distance in the third quarter. The Trojans stayed within a point until the Indians rattled off a 9-3 run in the final two minutes of the third period to make it a seven-point game.
Once the fourth quarter began, it was all Indians, with Manhattan outscoring the Trojans 11-3, despite going to a stall offense that drained the clock.
“We hit some big shots there in the third and fourth quarter that really helped us out a lot,” Mall said. “But limiting them to one shot, and not a great shot, was huge.”
Manhattan finished the night 16 of 44 (36 percent) from the field, but 10 of 11 from the charity stripe.
Topeka High also connected on 36 percent of its shots (13 of 36), but had less opportunities because of the Indians’ large rebounding advantage.
“It seemed like Darby came up with a lot of big ones, and then Caroline would come out of nowhere to go get a rebound,” Mall said.
“And offensively, when they pass the ball, especially to one another, they do a good job of setting each other up for great shots.”
Price said it hasn’t been easy for her and Ballard to get on the same wavelength, but Friday night, they were.
“I’ve been waiting for us to both get on the same page with rebounding, just going in after each other’s shots,” Price said. “I’m glad we’re getting it now — it’s good.”
Early on, Manhattan (13-1, 8-0) was bothered a bit by Topeka full-court pressure, committing seven first-half turnovers, but also speeding up its offense and taking some ill-advised shots.
“We were just in a little bit of a hurry,” Mall said. “We got a little anxious a couple of times — we had some pretty good shots, we just didn’t quite get set on them. And some of those shots we should have hit.”
The Indians took a 15-14 lead after the first quarter before both offenses started to sputter, with Manhattan going into halftime ahead 21-18. Both teams went scoreless for more than four minutes late in the second period.
The Indians host Topeka West on Tuesday, their first home game since Jan. 21.