Boys struggle to finish defensively

Jacob Clanton, Print Editor-in-Chief

It was a game of two halves.

“We struggled on offense, [but] our defense was really good in the first half,” senior Nate Awbrey said. “Second half, we came out and we were hitting all of our shots, but our defense was lacking. We just need a full game on both halves.”

Manhattan High (7-5, 2-3 Centennial League) could not get enough stops down the stretch, losing to Seaman (9-4, 3-3) 56-50 Friday night in Topeka.

“We just could not get a stop,” head coach Benji George said, “let alone string stops together. When things start clicking offensively, we got to be able to ride our defense like we have been all year.”

Though the Indians’ defense struggled late, the game began as a defensive battle. Seaman led late in the first quarter 12-5 thanks to MHS’ sub-20 percent field goal percentage. Senior Dawson Stewart hit a 3-pointer as time expired, cutting the led to just four.

Neither team would score for almost half of the second quarter as both teams settled in defensively. Timely baskets gave Seaman a six-point lead, but a short Manhattan lead kept the score close at half.

Though the Indians seemed to struggle offensively, they kept their heads up.

“It seems to me like we’re still playing with confidence on offense,” George said. “I know that’s hard when you only score 15 points in the first half, but body language and all that was no different. We were getting good shots, they just weren’t falling.”

Someone must have lifted the lids off the baskets at halftime, because both teams came out firing offensively. Manhattan scored on its first seven possessions, taking a 33-27 lead with 2:45 left in the quarter.

However, that’s when Seaman senior Nathan Heinen struck. Heinen went on a personal 5-0 run to end the quarter, tying the game at 33. He kept his momentum into the fourth quarter, ending with 23 points in the game, all in the second half.

“He was on fire,” Awbrey said, “and we didn’t really do the best job of keeping track of him. I think we could have stayed with him better, but he definitely shot the ball well in the second half.”

Even as Heinen dominated, Manhattan still had some chances. However, it couldn’t create enough, losing 56-50. Its defense was to blame.

“We’re going to have to lean on our defense if we’re going to be successful this year,” George said. “That’s the most frustrating thing to me. I don’t know what it was, it might have been fatigue a little bit, maybe we didn’t give them enough credit for how talented they are, but definitely can’t get broken down off the bounce that easily.”

Manhattan still had some bright spots, as senior Carson Marsh scored 11 points, making three 3-pointers.

“He’s really showing some confidence,” George said, “and it really adds another element to our offense, having a big that can stretch the floor. A lot of four-men can shoot the three, and he’s definitely one of them.”

MHS returns to action Tuesday as it travels back to Topeka, taking on Topeka High (8-5, 4-2). For the Indians, toughness will be key.

“We got to keep our mental toughness, just know that it’s going to be tough on the road,” Awbrey said. “We’re going to have opposite crowds, not hometown refs and stuff, so we’re just going to have to be tough and adjust.”