WICHITA — Seventh-seeded Manhattan High boys’ basketball had the perfect game plan to topple No. 2 Blue Valley North in the first round of the 6A state tournament, and the execution of it was almost perfect as well.
The Indians never trailed in regulation, but a three-minute scoreless streak to end the fourth period and only one made field goal in overtime derailed their upset bid in a 44-39 loss at Charles Koch Arena.
Ian McNabb scored on a putback to push Manhattan (14-9) on top 36-30 with 3:02 remaining in the fourth, and there, the Indians’ scoring froze. Meanwhile, senior Jack Wilson — who led Manhattan with 12 points — fouled out of the game 1 ½ minutes later, and the Mustangs’ Blake Garrett made two free throws to tie the game at 36-all with 1:09 left on the clock.
Both teams missed shots at the rim in the last eight seconds of regulation to force a four-minute overtime.
Jackson Goldberg made a layup five seconds into the extra period to put Blue Valley North (20-3) ahead for the first time. Indians’ senior Dre Delort fouled out with 2:37 left in overtime and the Mustangs leading 38-36.
Blue Valley North pushed its advantage to 42-36 before Jason Kim buried a 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining, but by then, time had all but run out for Manhattan.
“Nobody that’s seen us play would guess that we were going to go out with Jack and Dre sitting on the bench,” said Indians head coach Benji George. “That’s just not how you envision it. Obviously, it threw a curveball at us. It showed the most on the offensive end because we were uncertain. … That uncertainty bit us offensively, and we just couldn’t sustain anything.”
The defeat was a gut punch for a squad that appeared poised to pull off a second-straight win against a higher-seeded team. Manhattan led by as many as eight midway through the third quarter and held a six-point margin with three minutes to go in regulation. That was primarily thanks to its defensive performance, which limited Blue Valley North to a season low in scoring and 19 points below its per-game average — even with an additional four minutes.
The Mustangs shot the ball at a 33% (17-of-52) clip while making 3-of-18 3-point tries. The Indians forced Blue Valley North into 17 turnovers, nine of which they nabbed on steals.
“We frustrated them, we confused them,” George said. “I thought we matched their physicality. … We did what we do: we defend. I’m proud of that in our program. We defend. To hold them to 44 in an overtime game and defend the way we did, I never would’ve thought we’d have lost.”
But the thing the Indians’ defense didn’t do well enough was rebound the ball. The Mustangs pulled down 19 offensive boards and converted those into 16 second-chance points.
Blue Valley North’s defense made Manhattan uncomfortable all afternoon as well. The Indians shot the ball slightly better — 36% (17-of-47) from the field and 3-of-13 from long distance — but they gave up 19 turnovers (which led to 15 Mustangs points) and only scored four second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds.
Another glaring statistical difference was at the free-throw line. While George said he thought his team played with the same amount of physicality as Blue Valley North, the Mustangs went 7-of-17 at the charity stripe while Manhattan had just three opportunities and made two of them.
“It boggles my mind how we only shoot three free throws,” George said. “It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me. I can’t take it any further than that, but I don’t even understand how that’s possible.”
The Indians set the tone early on defense, as they forced five turnovers on Blue Valley North’s first six possessions and kept the Mustangs off the scoreboard for nearly four minutes.
However, Manhattan struggled to find the bottom of the net as well and led just 9-6 after one quarter. By halftime, its advantage had grown slightly to 15-11.
Both teams went off for 17 points in the third quarter, with the Indians hitting 8-of-11 shots and Blue Valley North going 8-of-16. That sent the game to the fourth with a 34-30 score, not far enough out of reach.
The loss brought Manhattan’s up-and-down season to a close with more ups than downs in the final month. The Indians lost four straight in late January and early February before winning six out of seven and four in a row prior to Thursday’s game.
“That’s the character of our guys; we’re going to make our way through adversity because we’re tough enough to do it,” George said. “I know it didn’t go our way today, but I thought we made our school proud and we represented our community well and we left it on the floor. If you can have that as a program, that’s all you can ask for.”
Manhattan’s five seniors — Wilson, Delort, Collins Elumogo, Cole Coonrod and Keenan Schartz — will now move on from their high school basketball playing days, but according to George, they — along with the rest of the team — aren’t released from the Indians’ season motto of “no finish line.”
“The next chapter for them has to be the best one yet, whether it be a spring sport or graduation,” he said. “This isn’t the finish line for them. It’s not going to be. I want them to continue that resiliency and character on into the young men that they are.”
BLUE VALLEY NORTH 44, MANHATTAN 39
Manhattan (14-9) — 9; 6; 17; 4; 3; — 39
Blue Valley North (20-3) — 6; 5; 17; 8; 8; — 44
Manhattan — Wilson 12 (6-14), Kim 7 (3-4), Elumogo 6 (2-4), McNabb 6 (3-5), Coonrod 5 (2-15), Knopp 3 (1-3). Total: 39 (17-47).
Blue Valley North — Garrett 13 (5-13), Sand 8 (4-9), Goldberg 8 (3-13), Jordan 6 (2-8), Presley 4 (1-1), Parks 3 (1-2), Lashley 2 (1-3). Total: 44 (17-52).