TOPEKA — The Highland Park boys’ basketball team, the No. 3 squad in Class 5A, showed no mercy against short-handed Manhattan High Friday night, as the Indians fell 64-31 in a game that was not competitive from the jump.

The Indians played without junior Jack Wilson and senior Cade Perkins, both of whom are veteran pieces for head coach Benji George. Perkins was out because of a family obligation, while coronavirus health and safety protocols sidelined Wilson.

"We're in a tough situation and it is what it is," head coach Benji George said. "But we still need to have a next-man-up mentality. Being shorthanded and playing one of the best teams in the state definitely hurt us but there's nothing you can do about it." 

Manhattan was held to just a single free throw in the first quarter, as the Scots raced out to a 16-1 lead. The Indians turned over the ball 10 times in the opening period.

"There was a little big of a deer in the headlights look," George said. "We tried and tried to prepare for it. We played offense the last two nights six-on-five just to kind of simulate that kind of pressure. We could've practiced eight-on-five. It's hard to simulate that level of athlete and player (that Highland Park has). It's a good experience for our players to under that level of pressure and duress because it exposes your fundamentals. Hopefully, tonight will give us a renewed enthusiasm when we approach that fundamental skill development in practice."

Defensively, Manhattan did find some success early in the half-court. The Indians threw zone defenses at Highland Park which worked but the Scots got so many opportunities in transition due to turnovers that it didn't end up making enough of a difference in the end. 

"I thought our zone had them confused a little bit and slowed the pace of the game down which we definitely needed to do," George said.

Senior Tate Brown broke the seal on the basket for the Indians at the 6:48 mark of the second quarter, hitting a 3 with 6:48 to play in the second half.

Manhattan trailed 36-11 at half.

Things did not improve much for the Indians (2-5) in the second half, as Highland Park junior Bo Aldridge put on a show, dunking four times in the quarter. Aldridge ended the night with 22 points and nearly was unstoppable for the Scots. Highland Park senior Juan-Tario Roberts had 22 points, while senior Tre Richardson added 12. The Scots (7-0) chose to keep multiple starters in the game until midway through the fourth quarter.

Junior forward Cole Coonrod led the Indians with nine points, followed by eight for Brown.

"(We need) to be able to move to the next moment without losing any enthusiasm," George said. "It's really easy to have a fixed mindset and get your dobber down and lose your enthusiasm when you go through something like that. But true toughness and resiliency is being able to experience a failure, move on from it, and then have a renewed enthusiasm about it." 

Manhattan will have the weekend to heal and recover before hosting Washburn Rural (3-3) on Tuesday.