With a second left in regulation, senior Cade Roberts stepped to the free throw line for two shots. The game was tied, and one make would put Manhattan High in the driver’s seat.
In a microcosm of the game, he missed both.
“To blame the loss on any one moment or time is against our culture,” head coach Benji George said. “We just didn’t do a good job at the free throw line, which is so against who we are. I think we can pin [the loss] on one thing, and that’s free throws throughout the game.”
Manhattan fell to Lawrence High 51-44 in overtime in the state quarterfinals, ending the Indians’ season.
“It’s sad that we have to end this early,” senior Trevor Hudgins said. “I just think that we had a great year. If we really think about it, this past year, and the past three years, were absolutely great, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Manhattan’s biggest issue was its inability to make free throws. The Indians finished the game 10-21 from the line, after averaging 71 percent throughout the season.
“We just missed,” Hudgins said. “We were short, we were long. We just didn’t have the touch tonight.”
Lawrence opened the game on a 5-0 run. The Chesty Lions continued their dominance, taking a 14-5 lead after the first quarter.
“Just getting used to the environment pretty much was our biggest obstacle,” Hudgins said. “[Also,] just a different team we hadn’t faced before.”
Manhattan slowed the onslaught in the second quarter, but still trailed 26-15 at the half. During the break, the Indians used each other to motivate themselves for the second half.
“We just came together as a family to compete harder and go harder for each other,” Hudgins said, “because we’ve worked our tails off this whole entire year to get where we are today.”
The third quarter belonged to MHS. Manhattan jumped out of the gate to a 9-0 run, and cut LHS’ lead to two points by the end of the quarter.
“It started really with us creating turnovers,” George said, “[and then] I thought we fought a little bit harder. The turnovers kind of got us going, and really got us into a flow, because there was no flow that first 16 minutes. We were just completely shell-shocked.”
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team giving an inch. After taking a lead midway through the quarter, the Indians tied it up at 39-all with 2:10 remaining in regulation. Lawrence then stalled, trying to get the last shot.
“[Throughout the fourth quarter] they were really taking advantage of the fact that there is no shot clock, and that’s hard,” George said. “They got us spread out, but we did a good job of pressuring the basketball, and deflecting passes and creating turnovers.”
Lawrence would not get the last shot though, as a turnover gave Roberts the ball at the line with a chance to win the game. He missed both shots, sending the game into overtime.
Early in overtime, neither team could pull away. Lawrence found the ability to do so first, led by senior Kobe Buffalomeat. Buffalomeat scored six points in overtime to lead Lawrence.
“We knew that … when they started to struggle, they were really going to go to [Buffalomeat],” George said. “We can’t isolate our post players with him, and so I thought we could have done a better job of crowding early and smartly. The strength of that team is inside. We didn’t force them into being a perimeter team like we wanted to.”
Manhattan started fouling and hoping for missed free throws, but was unlucky, allowing Lawrence to win 51-44 and advance to the semifinals.
Buffalomeat led all scorers with 23 points. Hudgins had a team-high 19, while senior Tommy Ekart added nine. Roberts scored seven.
Though the seniors’ high school career is now over, they will always have fond memories of this season of life.
“Not only just this season,” Hudgins said, “but the past three years have just been amazing. It was probably the best three years of my life right now. These guys aren’t just my teammates, these guys are my brothers. I just cherish all of our relationships we have.”