T-Birds edge Manhattan in OT

By Grant Guggisberg

TOPEKA — Even with 22 turnovers, the Manhattan High boys’ basketball team had its chances.

The Indians used an outstanding third quarter to turn a six-point deficit into a six-point lead, but couldn’t hold on in the end, allowing Shawnee Heights to rally in the fourth and force overtime, which the Thunderbirds finished out for a 64-58 win.

“I thought we started the game off and were just terrible with the basketball,” Manhattan coach Tim Brooks said. “A lot of unforced turnovers, and we gave up a big run at the start. Then we dig ourselves out of that hole, and it was almost like we got complacent. We quit doing the things that got us ahead.”

Shawnee Heights had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Tony Barksdale Jr.‘s 3 was off the mark to send the game to overtime.

In the extra period, Manhattan scored just four points as T-Bird guard Jovan Barksdale hit a pair of shots and Braeson Sester scored six points — four of the free throws — to finish out the game.

Facing a matchup zone and a three-quarter court press all night, Manhattan struggled to take care of the ball, leading to plenty of easy baskets for the Thunderbirds.

“Their little 2-2-1 did what they wanted it to do,” he said. “We didn’t attack it — we were passive. We talked about getting into the middle and attacking, and when we did we got good things, but when we floated passes and were happy just to get the ball across, then we came and trapped us and we weren’t very good.”

But in the third quarter, Manhattan figured it out, with Jacob Holloway doing what he does best — making 3s. He was 4 for 4 from long range in the third quarter, with three of those coming on consecutive possessions to get the Manhattan bench and fans excited.

“It’s kind of like a broken record, but he does his job,” Brooks said. “He gets open and makes shots, and our guys do a good job of finding him.”

Holloway finished with 17 points, with Payton Stephens leading the way with 18 points in his first game back since tearing his ACL over the summer. Brooks said he didn’t expect his big man to contribute so much this early.

“He’s obviously practiced over break and has had good moments, but he was pretty dang good,” he said. “We didn’t want to play him that much because of his injury, but he was so effective, he had to stay out there.”

Stephens was able to throw his weight around in the post, finishing with nice moves to the basket with both hands. Shawnee Heights coach Darin Putthoff, who admittedly saw no film on Stephens, was impressed with the performance.

“He’s a tough kid,” Putthoff said. “He’s one of those vintage Manhattan-Kansas big boys. He’s a load for anybody. We talked about that going into this, we didn’t have him scouted real well, but he’s great.”

For the T-Birds, it was the Barksdale brothers running the show, with Jovan finishing with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting and Tony scoring 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting. In the third quarter, neither were making shots, and it hurt the T-Birds both offensively and defensively.

“When they miss shots, they weren’t able to press, and that made a difference,” Brooks said. “When they made shots, they slowed us down with their press and their zone, and it really hurt us. So that was the difference — they were missing shots and we were able to go down and execute things we wanted to do.

“We very seldom against their press got comfortable and were able to go down in the halfcourt offense and execute.”

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