TOPEKA — Manhattan High’s boys’ basketball team controlled the first half of Friday’s game versus Hayden, as it took a 30-21 lead at halftime.
Hayden came out in the third quarter and quickly cut Manhattan’s advantage to just one point, 37-36.
The second half featured multiple lead changes. And a neck-and-neck fourth quarter that came down to the final possession. Manhattan held a 53-52 lead.
But Hayden had a final possession to win the game.
Hayden’s Vacario Triplett drove to the basket for a layup and the ball rimmed out, but the Wildcats got the rebound for another chance. A pass from the baseline to the top of the key was intercepted by sophomore Cameron Carr. He then was fouled to stop the clock. Carr sank both free throws to seal the game for the Indians, 55-52.
“I was just reading where he was looking on the court,” Carr said. “I saw him leave his feet to pass, and I tried to jump where he was looking and (I looked for) his closest pass.”
Carr then capped off a 19-point scoring night — a team-high point total — with two clutch free throws to seal the victory.
“The first (free throw), I know I kind of rushed it,” Carr said. “The second, I got comfortable. I just followed through and finished high. That is my main goal.”
Owen Braxmeyer has led the Indians (9-10) in scoring in most games this season. But Carr was happy to step up and be a force Friday in handing Hayden (4-15) a three-point home loss.
“I am excited,” Carr excited. “It feels good to have a good game after a tough couple weeks.”
MHS head coach Benji George gave the sophomore guard high praise for the performance.
“I thought (Cameron) was assertive,” George said. “After the first half of the first quarter, he was really assertive all game, probably the most assertive has been all year. The exciting thing is we are just scratching the surface of how good Cameron is going to be. He is learning night in and night out. He is really learning how to compete and battle. I was proud of him tonight. He played a great game.”
Starting the third quarter with a 30-21 lead, George said he was optimistic his team would end the regular season with a win.
“(Hayden) had been playing everybody pretty close,” George said. “I think they showed some pride on their home floor on senior night. (Hayden’s) comeback was to be expected. I did not think we were going to walk out of here with an easy win. And truthfully, we probably get more out of this game grinding it out than just expecting everything to be easy.”
Cade Perkins and Mason Reid also contributed to scoring for the Indians. Perkins scored eight points and Reid had seven.
After a disappointing loss to Seaman on Tuesday, Manhattan rebounded to end the regular season on a high note.
Now, the Indians prepare for sub-state play.
MHS faces Washburn Rural at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Topeka.
“All things considered — a very young team, replacing many experienced faces from last year — I thought we really showed in moments throughout the season how good of a team we can be,” George said. “When things are really clicking for us, I think we can play with anybody. I am really proud tonight that we turned the momentum around from how things went the last week and a half. We definitely needed (this win) to give us some confidence. Hopefully, we can go into Tuesday with some confidence and rhythm.”
The Junior Blues won both regular-season meetings. But when the two teams played Feb. 19, the Indians were within two points with 4:22 to play. But Washburn pulled away down the stretch to pick up a 59-53 victory in Manhattan.
“I thought we played them well on our home floor. That has got to build some confidence in us," George said. "We have to be able to go in there and get off to a good start. That has been our problem at Rural: our starts have not been great. If we get off to a good start, we have shown we can play with them.”