MHS opens at home tonight

By Grant Guggisberg

Fans that didn’t make the trip to Derby on Friday will get several chances to see the Manhattan Indian girls’ and boys’ basketball teams play this week.

Manhattan kicks off its three-game homestand this week against the Word of Life Fire, before hosting Dodge City on Friday and Great Bend on Saturday afternoon.

Against Word of Life, the Indians will face a matchup similar to the Sunrise Christian Academy games a year ago. Because Word of Life is a Christian, private school, they have access to players public schools don’t, as well as the ability to schedule a regional schedule that includes only a handful of Kansas schools.

For instance, last year’s boys’ team that went 28-5, played in five tournaments and played just five home games. The team featured an eventual Frank Martin/South Carolina signee in Mindaugas Kacinas among its seven seniors, many of which are international players. Despite providing a tough test and an equal talent level, many of the City League schools in Wichita refuse to schedule Word of Life, accusing them of recruiting.

For Manhattan, playing the Fire fills a date on its schedule that doesn’t require a return trip to Wichita in the future. It’s not uncommon for teams like Word of Life and Sunrise to make trips all over the state to fill out its schedule.

While last year’s team went 28-5, this year’s squad has yet to play a game and looks to have an overhauled roster. Not even Indians’ coach Tim Brooks knows what to expect.

“Outside of just knowing a few things they do from last year offensively and defensively, we kind of just have to worry about ourselves,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re better in the things that hurt us last game, which is turning the ball over, transition defense and halfcourt defense.”

The Fire are likely to have an international flavor, much like last year’s team. Brooks thinks if his team can play the way they did in the fourth quarter of its season-opening loss to Derby, they’ll be OK. But the Indians’ defense must improve.

“There’s no way we can give up 70 points a game and win a lot of games,” he said. “We’ve really got to buckle down and be better. I thought with all the guys that we have that have been in the system for a while, even though they didn’t play varsity, I thought that we’d be a better team defensively, with back side help, stuff like that.”

For the girls’ team, coach Scott Mall said Friday night immediately following the Derby game he didn’t know much about Word of Life’s team. Last year’s squad went 13-7, but never played at quite the high level the boys’ team had over the same time period.

Tuesday’s games feature varsity squads only and are scheduled to start at 6 p.m.

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