JUNCTION CITY — When a team needs a win, it doesn’t have to be pretty.
That was the situation the then-winless Manhattan High girls’ basketball team found itself in Tuesday when it traveled to arch-rival Junction City.
The Indians are winless no longer after picking up a 39-17 victory.
“It was a good win,” MHS head coach Scott Mall said. “The girls deserved a win and got one. Defensively, we just did a great job of scrapping all game long. Now we just need to get to a place where we can make that pay off. We got a lot of good looks, but in the first half, we couldn’t make a shot to save ourselves. Defensively, the girls just kept up their intensity the whole time.”
Both teams struggled with shooting and turnovers, but while neither had a particularly good day offensively, Manhattan’s still was leaps and bounds better than its rival.
The Indians (1-3) held Junction City scoreless through the first quarter and only allowed eight points in the second quarter, which gave Manhattan a 16-8 lead heading into the half. Junction City (0-4) did not score its first basket until the 7:45 mark of the second quarter.
Grace Dixon only had six points at the half thanks in part to the Blue Jays’ zone defense, but the senior found her footing in the third and fourth quarters, when she scored nine of her 15 total points.
“We haven’t played against zone hardly at all so it was a little different,” Mall said. “(Dixon) wasn’t as wide open, and help was coming a lot sooner. But once she got a little more aggressive with her turns, she put the ball in the hole.”
Manhattan held Junction City to just two points in the third quarter, stretching the lead to 16 points heading into fourth.
While the Indians extended their lead, miscues on offense continued to be a problem. The two teams combined for just 12 points in the third quarter — against 14 turnovers, five for Manhattan and nine for Junction City.
“It’s been a problem in a lot of our games,” Mall said. “You’re going to have some, but we just had too many. We’re forcing the ball. We try to sneak a ball past somebody. Well, you don’t have to do that. There’s always somebody more open.”
Manhattan closed with its best quarter of the night offensively — scoring 14 points in the final period — and committed just three turnovers. By the end of the game, the visitors had pushed their lead to 22.
Junior guard Avery Larson turned in her fourth double-digit scoring effort of the year, recording 10 points including two 3s.
“She does a good job,” Mall said. “She’s been in double-figures all four games so far, which has been great, especially considering where she was just two years ago. She’s done a great job without really shooting the ball to the level she’s capable of. She’s a really good shooter, but they’re just not going in for her.”
The Indians have a shot of notching consecutive wins heading into winter break Friday, when they host winless Topeka West (0-4). Mall hopes the confidence that Tuesday’s victory built carries over to the end of the week.
“Our girls are confident, but it kind of shakes you when you don’t get wins that you’ve really planned on getting,” Mall said. “So it’s always nice to get one, especially coming off of where we were. We got this one, and if we can play well on Friday and get another win before going into break, that’d be a big lift.”
JUNCTION CITY 17
Junction City (0-4, 0-3) – Rexrode 5 2-2 12, Cebula 1 0-3 2, DeGuzman 1 0-0 2, O’Neal 0 1-2 1. Total: 7 3-7 17.
Manhattan (1-3, 1-2) – Dixon 7 1-2 15, Larson 4 0-0 10, Doering 4 0-0 8, Ingram 1 0-0 3, Ruliffson 1 0-0 3. Total:17 1-2 37.
3-pointers– Junction City 0, Manhattan 4 (Larson 2, Ingram, Ruliffson).