Outplayed: Boys fall to McPherson in tournament final

Jacob Clanton, Sports Editor

Often, when a team loses, it is attributed to something the team failed to do. Sometimes though, the loss is not because of what didn’t happen, but rather what the other team was able to do.

That was the case for Manhattan High against McPherson High in the championship game of the McPherson Invitational Basketball Tournament on Saturday night as McPherson won 66-56.

“I don’t know if it was necessarily what wasn’t working for us,” senior Tommy Ekart said, “but they went like 10-for-17 on threes, and they just played really, really well, and we couldn’t stop them. I think they outplayed us, really.”

Part of McPherson’s success shooting the 3-pointer was Manhattan’s inability to close out on shooters.  

“We didn’t guard the arc very well,” head coach Benji George said, “and that’s something that at times would hurt us. We need to do a better job of … getting out on shooters, and you know, getting guys out of rhythm, and that’s something that we’re going to have to work on.”

Manhattan started off well enough with a steal-to-layup combination from Ekart. A 6-0 run midway through the first quarter put the Indians ahead by five before McPherson started to chip away at the lead, ultimately taking a 17-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Once again proving basketball is a game of runs, MHS opened the second frame with a 8-3 run to regain the lead. McPherson wouldn’t back down though, scoring clutch threes and a buzzer-beater to take a one-point lead into half.

The Indians’ second quarter run was led by senior Trevor Hudgins, who scored five points of the eight points on his way to 18 total points, four assists and two steals. Ekart added 16 points while senior big-man Cade Roberts added 15.

Ekart attributed his points to his attack mentality.

“I hit a couple threes,” Ekart said, “and then I tried to attack the basket as much as I could that game.”

Outside Hudgins, Ekart and Roberts, Manhattan scored only seven points. However, this isn’t considered a problem by the team.

“They’re our main scorers,” George said. “Basketball is not an equal opportunity endeavor, I mean, the guys who can score are the ones who are going to score, so those three are going to lead us in scoring, there’s no mystery about that. Are we looking for other guys to step up and do other things, yeah, but I mean, our three scorers are going to be the ones who score.”

The second half started the same way the first half ended: with McPherson scoring. It continued the trend throughout the half, extending the lead all the way to 12 points with a minute left in the game. Manhattan got the lead down to eight before McPherson hit free throws to clinch the game and the championship.

“The guys invested a lot into it,” George said. “They were hurt, and it was hard to see the hurt on their faces. You know, we also understand that mid season tournament championship is a prize, but it’s not the main prize we’re after, so you know, we have a lot of time to improve and go after our next set of goals.”

The game had a sense of possible redemption for some members of the team, as Manhattan and McPherson faced off two years ago with McPherson winning.

“Sophomore year, we got really smacked by those guys,” Ekart said, “and me and Trevor, and the people that got smacked by them, we kind of want to get revenge on them, but you know, it sometimes doesn’t work out.”

Even through the loss, other coaches and fans noticed something special about the Indians.

“I’m proud of our team and the heart they showed and the hustle they showed,” George said, “and you know a lot of coaches and fans commented to me mainly about the class we showed, and how well we hustled and everything, and you know, I’m glad that people recognized that about us, and I let the guys know that, it’s something they can be proud of.”

Manhattan’s next game will be Thursday against Seaman at home. Even though the game is on a day different from normal, the Indians won’t prepare any different from normal.

“I think all of our guys are really good at getting mentally prepared for the game,” Ekart said, “so I think we’re pretty good [in that respect].”