TOPEKA — The Manhattan High girls’ basketball team rode a defensive effort that improved steadily as Friday’s game against Highland Park progressed.

It ended with a stress-free, 64-34 road victory.

The win marked a bounce-back effort for MHS, which lost by 27 points to Emporia on Tuesday.

"It was a tough one on Tuesday because we were shorthanded," head coach Scott Mall said. "They practiced really well the last two days and came out with the same energy. We did a good job adjusting to what they were doing."

After Highland Park took a 4-2 lead early in the first quarter, the Indians broke out their press and scored nine in a row before the Lady Scots hit another shot from the field.

Manhattan (3-4) forced Highland Park into nine turnovers in the first quarter and led 16-10, thanks in part to nine points from senior forward Grace Dixon.

The Lady Scots (1-6) trimmed the MHS lead to a point, 16-15, midway through the second quarter, but the Indians widened the gap, holding Highland Park to just one made shot in the final half of the second quarter.

The Indians extended their lead to as many as 11 in the second half, and held a 29-19 edge at the break.

Manhattan carried that momentum into the third quarter, and despite Dixon sitting because of foul trouble, the Indians outscored Highland Park two-to-one in the quarter, led by junior Avery Larson, who had 11 points in the period.

"I thought we matched up better (in the second half)," Mall said. "In the first half, there were some times in our full court (defense) that we just lost some people. We did a much better job in the second half of not letter that happen. We worked really hard. We know they wanted to get the ball inside to (freshman forward Amelia Ramsey who led the Lady Scots with nine points) but we did a good job of helping on her." 

Larson had an exceptional night, leading all scorers with 20. Dixon had 15 points and sophomore Maxine Doering had 10.

"(Larson) did such a great job," Mall said. "She hit a couple of outside shots, which was good, but she's doing just a good job of driving to the basket and getting the ball to the hole." 

The Indians increased their lead to as many as 20 at the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter off a bucket from Doering. The Indians took a 30-point lead with 1:23 to play on a layup from junior reserve Callie Carson.

The Indians have an exceptionally tough task in front of them in their next outing, as they host Washburn Rural, the No. 2 team in Class 6A.

"They're awfully good," Mall said. "But we usually play them pretty tough so if the girls come out and play with the same energy and work this hard on defense, we'll take our chances. We can do some things."