Manhattan girls basketball defeats Junction City

Junior Taylor Claussen moves toward the hoop after grabbing a steal in the third quarter Tuesday night of the Lady Indians 50-26 road victory in Junction City. The Lady Indians return home Friday for homecoming against Topeka-Hayden.

JUNCTION CITY — The Manhattan High girls basketball team rolled through Junction City Tuesday night, easing to a 50-26 win on the road.

“(I’m) just glad we came out, we didn’t take the game lightly — we had good luck against them last time,” MHS head coach Scott Mall said. “It’s sometimes easy for teenagers to think, ‘Oh, it’ll be easy,’ and we knew it wasn’t going to be, because they’ve been playing better and better all the time. So I thought it was good that we came out ready to play. We didn’t take anything for granted.”

Mall credited his team’s defensive efforts for thwarting the Lady Blue Jays throughout the contest, garnering numerous steals — most leading to transition points on the other end.

“Defensively, I thought we played tough,” he said. “We were really worried about their offensive rebounding — I thought we did a pretty good job of that, because they’re very physical and very aggressive. On offense, we kind of saw that we had an advantage inside and the girls did a good job of getting the ball in there.”

Using the height advantage of Zanna Cordis, who scored a team high 23-points, the Lady Indians (7-8, 4-5 Centennial League) dominated the interior.

“Zanaa is a very good player,” Mall said. “She gets good position and she finishes well. She’s shot over 60% on the season, so when she gets the ball she knows where to put it.”

Junction City scored first in the contest after two back-and-forth runs up and down the court off two shots from the charity stripe. Those would be the lone points put up on the board as the Lady Indians scored 14 unanswered points to take the early lead.

Scoring slowed down in the second quarter with Manhattan adding seven points while Junction City rallied on five.

Up 21-7 at the break, Mall said his team still wasn't leading by enough to relax when the second half began.

“I think we’re not having a season where we can afford to take anybody lightly,” he said. “I talked to the girls and said, ‘They’re playing better and better all the time.’ I think the girls are playing harder, they’re playing better (and) they’re executing. But, also we know that (Junction City’s) going to come out play hard. Because if they can beat us, you know that makes their season. I think any time in this rivalry you get a win, it really helps make your season. So we knew we were going to have to be ready to play. And the girls did a good job of that.”

Manhattan continued to press the score button in the third quarter while easing off their hard defensive press from the first half.

The Lady Indians racked up 16 points while limiting Junction City to eight points.

“We kind of backed off of the full court, I thought we did a good job with it,” Mall said. “We’re a little worried because once you let (Lucy) Rivera get going into full court ... we were really focused on trying to keep her from pushing the ball down the floor hard. I thought our girls did a good job. Then once we got off to a good start, we kind of dropped back into the half court so we wouldn’t let them get going.”

Barely three minutes into the final quarter, Manhattan stretched its lead to more than 30 points, activating a running clock for the remainder of the game.

Scoring nevertheless continued for both teams with Junction City hitting a game high 11 points in the quarter while the Lady Indians added 13 points to take the victory.

The team will relish the victory for a few days before returning home Friday night to defend the court against Hayden.

“It’s always big anytime you get a win — we’re still just short of .500,” Mall said. “So we need to keep at it. Every game is a big one for us, especially these games with the teams that are kind of with us — like Junction City.

"And we were lucky to beat Hayden last time in a tight game. So we know we’re going to have to be ready. But every one of these games is big this time of year as you build toward the postseason.”