Fouls nearly doom home opener

Jacob Clanton, Print Editor-in-Chief

In its first home game of the season, Manhattan did not expect to use the bench as much as it did. However, between injuries and fouls, nearly everyone was forced to play.

“It’s huge,” senior John Ostermann said, “especially in games like this where we’re in foul trouble, to be able to have Mitch [Munsen, sophomore], and even Tyce [Hoover, sophomore] in that third quarter, come off the bench and provide really good minutes. It’s not like they were scoring over the top or getting a ton of steals, they were just playing hard and they were playing good defense.”

It was a total team effort from the Indians (3-1), as they pulled away from Dodge City (0-2) in the third quarter, winning 83-61.

Early on, MHS was struggling. Thanks to early and often Manhattan fouls, Dodge City held an eight point lead in the first quarter.

“I thought a lot of it was just jitters,” head coach Benji George said. “I think we kind of had a mindset that maybe it was going to be easy, and it’s 6A Varsity basketball, it’s not going to be easy, especially for guys who are young and still getting experience.”

However, the Indians didn’t give up and trailed only 22-17 at the end of the first.

“We just focused up on defense,” junior Lawson Monaco said, “and it was next man up on the bench, and everybody stepped up and played good.”

The story was no different for much of the second quarter. MHS continued to foul, gifting Dodge City 12 free throws. The Indians tried to not let it phase them.

“One thing that Coach harps on a lot is control what you can control and like just move on from the rest,” Ostermann said. “That’s really hard to do, especially when the refs are calling a lot of touchy fouls. We’re getting two hands on [Dodge when they’re driving], and in the rule book, that’s a foul. Not every ref calls it, but these tonight were pretty touchy and they were calling them. We just have to make sure that we play smart so that we can have our best players in there.”

Manhattan started to turn it on late in the second, as it tied the game up with two minutes left in the half. A few clutch shots, including a last-second make from sophomore Raeshon Riddick, gave MHS a slim 39-36 halftime lead.

Riddick would finish the game with 15 points, behind only Ostermann with 18.

“I have to attribute a lot of those points to my teammates,” Ostermann said, “because I wasn’t shooting the ball super well outside, but I was able to get inside buckets. When you have your teammates set you up for easy buckets, it’s easy to score.”

Though it is Riddick’s first year on Varsity, this was his third double-digit scoring effort.

“I think you’re seeing the experience from last year on J.V. and being with us for all the practices and everything,” George said. “He makes it look easy at times, just fortunately, he’s ours for three more years.”

At the half, George’s message was simple.

“Be tougher,” George said. “I mean, I didn’t think we were very tough that first half. We were a lot tougher that second half.”

The Indians also switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone defense. It proved effective, as they held Dodge City to just six points in the third quarter. Manhattan’s zone worked that well because of all the turnovers it created.

“One thing that we did a really good job of, that Coach George always harps on, is tipping passes,” Ostermann said. “I was able to either tip the pass and get it or just, they passed it right to me, and we were able to get transition buckets, and that was huge for that third quarter scoring as well.”

Manhattan turned the steals into 24 points, taking a commanding 63-42 lead after three quarters. From there, the Indians coasted to the 83-61 victory.

None of the MHS starters had ever started a home game before, giving all of them a new experience.

“It’s an unreal experience,” Ostermann said, “like nothing I have felt before on the basketball court. Honestly, I’ve been dreaming about this moment since freshman year, being able to come out in front of the fans and just play a good game and play hard and just be cheered on by all your fellow peers, it’s awesome.”

Manhattan returns to action Friday night, as it travels 20 miles down the road to face rival Junction City (1-1). The Indians know they need to make sure they are focused on the game at hand.

“We’re a young team, [so] we got to focus up and have a couple good practices,” Monaco said. “We got to step it up on the defensive end, [as well].”