Manhattan head coach Scott Mall calls a play to the team during last week’s season opener against Topeka. The Indians fell to 0-3 on the season after a 45-39 loss at Hayden on Friday.

TOPEKA — The Manhattan High girls’ basketball team found itself in another defensive dogfight late in Friday’s game at Hayden. Similar to its loss at Lawrence nearly a week earlier, Manhattan just couldn’t find the offensive production it needed in the second half, leading to a 45-39 loss.

"It's too bad," MHS head coach Scott Mall said. "We scrapped and we got a lot of turnovers. We forced a lot of things to happen and got looks, but didn't follow through."

The Indians did see the reemergence of senior center Grace Dixon, who had a career-high 20 points, including 15 in the first half.

"Grace really had a great game inside scoring," Mall said. "That was huge for us. If we could put that together with our outside shooting — because we didn't shoot as well from the outside as we'd like to, and they did a good job of not leaving us any wide-open looks." 

Manhattan’s press gave the team life late in the first quarter.

Hayden opened on a 6-0 run, and then, after a 5-0 by Manhattan High, the Wildcats scored another six more in a row to take a 12-5 lead.

From there, the Indians (0-3) went on a 14-3 run to close the quarter, led by junior guard Avery Larson, who scored six consecutive points, all off Hayden turnovers.

"Last year when we played (Hayden) over here, we had some luck with our press and putting pressure on them," Mall said. "The girls did an outstanding job of getting in good position and not really slapping the ball, so when they turned, we were right there. We got some layups out of those, which was huge."

The Wildcats (2-0) came into the game with turnover issues after coughing up the ball more than 20 times Tuesday versus Highland Park. The first quarter of Friday’s game was no different, as Manhattan’s press forced Hayden into eight turnovers in the opening eight minutes.

Dixon carried her strong start into the second quarter, even though Hayden’s tenacious half-court zone did its best to double-team her throughout the night.

Hayden quickly tied the score at 21 after going on a 6-2 run. The Indians’ press was not as successful in the second period, only forcing three Wildcat turnovers. But, just as it did in the first quarter, the MHS girls closed strong and took a 27-24 lead into the half.

Manhattan High’s steady offensive production dried up at the beginning of the third quarter. Dixon sank the first shot of the second half, and then Manhattan did not score again until the 1:30 mark — a transition bucket from Larson.

Hayden, meanwhile, grew its lead to five on the back of 13 third-quarter points, all from freshman Brylee Meier, who came off the bench and led Hayden with a game-high 21 points.

"(Meier) scored around eight points in (Hayden's) last game, so we knew she could score, but she's a freshman and she's aggressive, and boy, she could hit free throws," Mall said. "It always seemed like she was getting free throws and she was hitting them, and that was big."

Offense continued to be a struggle down the stretch for Manhattan, as it managed just one basket in the first six minutes of the final quarter.

Manhattan had the majority of its success in the first half off transition offense, but Hayden did a better job of slowing down the game after halftime, forcing the Indians to run plays.

The Indians had chances late — their work on the offensive boards gave them a plethora of second-chance opportunities — but couldn’t get over the hump, despite trailing by just four points on multiple occasions in the final minutes.

"We didn't shoot as well as we have been," Mall said. "We didn't shoot as well from the outside. We also got really hurt on the free throw line. They made like 16 free throws and we made seven. They had like five three-point plays and those were huge. It seemed like we got a little lead and they'd get a three-point play."

Manhattan concludes its three-game road trip Tuesday, when it travel to face arch-rival Junction City (0-3).

"We just need to get ourselves right," Mall said. "We're doing a lot of good things. We just need to get to a stretch where, if we're ahead by four or five in those last minutes of the game, we can take advantage of that. We're just trying to get better. Every night out we've done better things, we just have to put them all together." 


Hayden (2-0, 2-0) – Meier 6 8-9 21, Stuke 3 4-4 11, Smith 2 2-3 6, Greco 2 2-4 6, Sandstorm 1 0-2 2, Angulano 1 0-0 2. Total 15 16-22 48.

Manhattan (0-3, 0-3) – Dixon 7 5-6 20, Larson 6 0-0 13, Yates 2 2-3 6, Doering 1 0-0 2. Total 16 7-12 41.

3-point Goals – Hayden 2 (Stuke, Meier) Manhattan 2 (Larson, Dixon) Total Fouls – Hayden 13, Manhattan 17.