The roar of a packed house welcomed the Manhattan High boys' basketball team back for another season Friday night.

After a year of reduced capacity because of the pandemic, the Indian faithful returned in full force for Manhattan’s season-opener versus Topeka High, a game the Indians won 67-46 with a stellar second-half performance.

“No offense to (Topeka High head coach Ty Baumgardner), but right away I went over to our student section and clapped for them,” MHS head coach Benji George said. “We’ve missed that and the band so much. We thank the students and everybody who showed up so much for what they did. That’s the pomp and circumstance of high school basketball, and that’s what we want. We love playing at home.”

For most of the Indians, Friday night's game marked their first varsity experience in front of a full crowd, something they won’t soon forget.

“Hearing the crowd roar sent chills through my body,” senior guard Cade Perkins said.

After a back and forth first three quarters, Manhattan High led by five as the seconds ticked down in the third quarter. Senior Tate Brown nailed a 3 — his second bucket of the night — from the left wing to put the Indians ahead by eight heading into the fourth quarter.

From there, there was no looking back.

Manhattan exploded down the stretch, more than doubling up the Trojans in the final quarter and stretching its lead to 20 versus a Topeka team that hung with the Indians throughout most of the game. But turnovers cost the Trojans, while strong free throw shooting by the Indians led to a 20-point win.

“I thought we just kept after it defensively,” George said. “We really buckled down in the second half, especially in that fourth quarter.”

Manhattan went 17-for-22 from the charity stripe, including a perfect 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter.

Cade Perkins, who led all players with 20 points, had six of Manhattan’s 22 fourth-quarter points.

“(Perkins) played a phenomenal game,” George said. “He’s such a competitor, and sometimes that gets him in trouble. But I love how hard he played, and the free throw shooting late was big. It really helped us maintain that lead.”

The Indians pressed throughout most of the game, which discombobulated the Trojans, forcing them into turning over the ball 25 times.

Manhattan wasn’t perfect on its end, especially in the second quarter, where Topeka briefly tied things up at 25. But after two straight 3s from Mason Gomez, a technical foul call on Gomez following the second 3 allowed the Indians to retake the lead at the free throw line.

In a game that was impassioned from the start, four total technical fouls were called, two for each team.

“They’re kids, and they haven’t had fans in the stands for more than a year, and I just think things were amped up," George said. "It’s definitely a conversation that we’re going to have to have, because it’s not something we want to happen. We want guys toeing the line, but not crossing it. But we have a mature group and a coachable group.”

Gomes led the Trojans with 17 points including five 3s.

The Indians opened both halves on runs.

At the start of the game, after Topeka drew first blood on a layup off the opening tip, Manhattan got some initial distance from Trojans by scoring seven straight. Topeka High eventually whittled that down to a tie, but the Indians managed to squeak out a two-point lead (30-28) into the break. Topeka’s opening bucket was the only time the Trojans held a lead in the game.

Manhattan opened the second half on a 11-3 run to take a 10-point lead before the pesky Trojans fought their way back within single-digits.

“Some of that is just the agony and ecstasy of the press,” George said. “You may give up more, but you’re going to get more and you’re going to create those ebbs and flows. I think we got a little bit fatigued and not as assignment sound in the second quarter, and I think it really affected us offensively. We just forced things. Once we got back at it defensively, it really helped our offense too.”

The Indians won’t have long to celebrate their season-opening win as a trip to Lawrence High, the No. 8 team in Class 6A, looms in less than 24 hours. The girls will tip at 1:30 p.m. while the boys will tip around 3 p.m. It will be the Lions' first game of the season.

“It’s going to be tough but we’ll accept that challenge,” George said. “We’re excited to go on the road. Win or lose, it’s great for us to take stock in things we can improve on early in the season. We’re going to go in with an underdog mentality with nothing to lose, and I think we have a chance to go into their house and really compete.”

MANHATTAN 67, TOPEKA 46

2pt-3pt-FTs-Fouls Total Points

Topeka (46)

Totals: 10-7-5-17 46

Mason Gomez 0-5-2-2 17, Bryson Thrasher 2-1-0-4 7, Matt Flenoy 3-0-1-3 7, Germaine Mays 2-0-2-3 6, Ossie Morales 2-0-0-3 4, Isaiah Lyons 0-1-0-2 3, Mister Camerson 1-0-0-0 2.

Manhattan (67)

Totals: 19-4-17-16, 67 points

Cade Perkins 5-1-7-2 20, Jack Wilson 3-0-4-2 10, Tate Brown 2-2-0-3 10, Cole Coonrod 1-1-4-4 9, Collins Elumogo 4-0-0-2 8, Dre Delort 2-0-1-2 5, Trey Holloway 1-0-1-0 3, Eli Conley 1-0-0-0 2.

Three point field goals made: Topeka 7 (Gomez 5, Thrasher, Lyons), Manhattan 4 (Brown 2, Coonrod, Perkins).