Moving on: Boys beat Junction City, advance to sub-state final

Jacob Clanton, Sports Editor

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With one last chance to play their rival, Manhattan High knew it had to give all it had.

“The seniors said, ‘It’s going to be our last time playing our rivals on our home court,’” senior Trevor Hudgins said, “‘so bring everything you have, don’t regret anything and just come out strong,’ and that’s what we did.”

The Indians did just that, beating Junction City 52-22 to sweep the season series. With the win, Manhattan advances to the sub-state final for the second year in a row.

MHS started off strong, taking a 9-1 lead midway through the first. Junction responded by slowing the game down.

“We could tell right away we needed to up the pressure and the pace of the game,” head coach Benji George said. “They were really trying to be deliberate offensively. So we, right away, jumped into our press. I thought that that made a big difference early on, getting us in the flow.”

The Blue Jays would cut the lead to four points, but Manhattan would take a 11-5 lead into the quarter break.

Junction City opened the second quarter scoring, but didn’t get much more. The Indians went on a 10-0 run, taking a 21-7 lead. A key for the Indians was getting out jitters in the first quarter.

“We just kind of settled in,” George said. “We’ve talked about it and talked about it, and it’s just hard to avoid it. It’s just different in the playoffs, and so that was some of it early on, and then I think really our defense got us settled in and kind of on a roll.”

Though MHS led 25-11 at half, it did not slow down in the third quarter. The Indians had a quick 9-0 run, including two and-1s from Hudgins. Yet again, a key for Manhattan was its defense.

“Just getting in passing lanes and getting up on the ball,” Hudgins said, “[and] having help on the backside, it just ended up in fast breaks and points for us.”

Hudgins finished with 13 points, as senior Tommy Ekart led the team with 14 points.

MHS hit the breaks midway through the third quarter, allowing Junction go to on a 7-3 run to close the quarter.

“I think [the lead] got to our head a little bit,” Hudgins said, “but then coach called a timeout, and then he kind of got on us about letting up and we tried to come back a little harder in late third, and then after that, it was just a wrap.”

The fourth quarter was all about maintaining the lead, which MHS did successfully to win 52-22.  The Indians were able to play the entire bench as the game trailed out.

“Some of it’s just the luxury of earning that number one seed and things going your way, is that you get to do that,” George said. “Hopefully, it will pay some dividends Friday.”

With the win, Manhattan moves on to the sub-state final. MHS will be hosting Washburn Rural for the second time this season Friday night. Washburn won the previous matchup 53-41.

“That’s going to be a redemption game right there,” Hudgins said, “and over the years we’ve been good at redemption games. Knowing that this could be the last time we play on this court, seniors need to give it their all, the young guys [need to] help the seniors [and] just play as a family, play hard.”