Girls overcome slow start en route to blowout win over Topeka High


Cora Astin

Junior Gigi McAtee drives to the basket Friday night against Topeka High. McAtee led the Lady Indians with 15 points in the win.

Greg Woods, Online Editor-in-Chief

The first quarter Friday night was a distinct reversal of fortune for the Manhattan High girls basketball team, compared to that of Tuesday’s win, when it led 21-6 after the first frame.

Instead, the Lady Indians trailed Topeka High 14-6 after the first period Friday night, but the good news for MHS was that it didn’t matter.

Because Manhattan ripped off another win, this one a 57-38 decision over Topeka High.

The Lady Trojans’ Erica Burch, who led her team with 19 points, gashed MHS for 12 points in the first quarter alone, but in similar fashion, her impact dwindled as the contest wore on, as the forward totaled just seven after the first period.

Head coach Scott Mall explained his defensive strategy on Birch had to adjust on the fly.

“We came into the game hoping we could push her out of the lane and play underneath her, but she did a good job of backing us in,” he said. “So we had to front her, and even then, we had to get help and then we had to get timing.”

Whatever Mall changed exactly was evident. Birch managed just two points in the second quarter — both on free throws — and as a result, Manhattan took control of the game.

The Lady Indians outscored Topeka 20-11 in the second, and senior Madison Mittie, who finished with 13 points, canned two triples. That, on top of an 8-0 run, sent MHS into the locker room with a 26-23 advantage.

Mittie was recognized at halftime for receiving a nomination as a McDonald’s All-American.

While Mall’s squad, now 7-0 after Friday’s win, has not faced a plethora of deficits this season, adversity has indeed been present. The head coach said the experiences under trial paid dividends Friday night.

“In Hays, we trailed against TMP, and we were able to come back there; that was a battle. Newton was tight like that,” Mall said. “So we have had a little experience with that, but it always worries you when it happens.”

If he had worries after the third quarter, they likely disappeared soon after.

As part of her 15-point night, junior Gigi McAtee threaded a triple not a minute into the third period, and Mittie followed suit when she hit another. Freshman Haleigh Harper chimed in with a three of her own, and the Lady Indians entered the final frame with a seven-point, 42-35 cushion.

But the fourth quarter was when the cushion grew even larger — the largest of the game, in fact.

Manhattan ended the contest on a 12-0 run and outscored Topeka High 15-3 in the period on its way to what, though perhaps not expected after the opening eight minutes, turned into a runaway victory.

Mittie attributed her team’s improved efficiency in the second half to shot selection.

“We were taking a lot more better shots,” she said. “That’s another thing we struggled with at the beginning of the game. We were working the ball around better and just taking the right shots.”

Topeka High’s Adrianna Henderson, who averaged nearly 23 points a season ago and who poses a daunting, nightly scoring threat, did not play Friday due to suspension. Manhattan received word just hours before tipoff, and Mittie said the gameplan changed when the news arrived.

“She’s really good at ballhandling and stuff, so we weren’t going to be able to help off of her that much,” Mittie said. “We were able to do that with some of the other players.”

Harper added five points, and Garrin Williams tallied nine, two freshmen who helped take the scoring load off Mittie, who posted a career-high 32 points Tuesday night.

Manhattan now looks ahead to Tuesday’s road meeting with Washburn Rural, a squad that, along with Manhattan, also lost six seniors heading into this season. Mall, however, does not anticipate another cruise to the finish line, citing Lauren Biggs and Jordyn Musselman as two threats in particular.

“Defensively, they’re going to give us some different looks,” Mall said. “But offensively, Biggs and Musselman, they’re aggressive players. They led [Washburn Rural] back when they got behind Hayden the other night. They’re both really good players; they’re girls that just rise to the occasion.”