Losing streak ends with win over Emporia

Jacob Clanton, Print Editor-in-Chief

After four straight close losses, Manhattan was finally on the other side of the scoreboard.

“Words can barely describe the joy and feeling of accomplishment that I think everyone on our team has right now,” senior John Ostermann said, “just the fact that we’ve been in four straight games like this and we finally came out on top on one, so it’s great.”

Manhattan (8-8, 3-6 Centennial League) held off a late rally from Emporia (11-5, 5-4), beating the Spartans 62-61 Friday night.

“It feels like a gorilla’s been lifted off our backs,” head coach Benji George said, “and the kids too, they’ve had so much pride and kept the course and fought and fought and things finally went our way tonight.”

Both teams started strong before Emporia took over, running out to a seven-point lead. However, senior Carson Marsh was having none of it. Marsh went on a personal 10-0 in the second quarter, single-handedly giving MHS a 25-22 lead.

“[I was] just getting open,” Marsh said, “coming clear out on the other side, [and] just sitting backside.”

His teammates were not surprised by his explosion.

“When he was going off,” Ostermann said, “it just made me think back to all the practices that we’ve been in that he’s done that exact same thing in, [and] I’m just like, ‘Carson, quit it, I’m playing against you right now, I don’t need you making these,’ so everyone on our team knows that’s in him.”

The Indians continued to push the lead, taking a 31-26 lead into the halftime break.

Emporia started the second half on fire, tying the game up quickly. MHS bounced back though, keeping the Spartans at bay. Turnovers and fouls kept EHS in the game.

“We’ve had such a hard time keeping a lead,” George said, “and I was saying, we just got to keep working on [turnovers] in practice. I think it starts with me, we got to do a better job of coaching these situations.”

As the fourth quarter dawned, Manhattan continued to hold off Emporia, but not for long. The Spartans began to come back, tying the game up at 55-all with 2:39 left in the game. For the Indians, it was beginning to feel like all the losses before. Emporia even benefited off wacky plays, including the ball bouncing off the ref.

Even as the Spartans were starting to gain the momentum, the Indians found some of their own. Down 58-57, Ostermann hit a clutch 3-pointer from the wing, giving MHS the lead with :27.3 left in the game.

“I got a little bit scared,” Ostermann said, “but you know, just the fact that it rattled four times, popped out and fell back in, I feel like is just God looking out for us. I was praying to him down in the last two minutes like, ‘Please Lord, don’t let this happen again,’ and you know, that’s just him looking out for us.”

Emporia drove down, looking for an answer. Instead, the Spartans found sophomore Tyce Hoover, charging into him and turning the ball over.

“[Hoover] had to be tough,” Marsh said, “and this is a tough team, they’re a really physical team. Tyce [is] a really physical player, and it showed, that was a tough play, that was a big, big play.”

Emporia’s charge gave Manhattan the ball with :16.6 left in the game. Two seconds ran off the clock before sophomore Raeshon Riddick was fouled. Two clutch free throws later, Manhattan had a four-point lead.

“I mean, the way things have been going for us,” George said, “I was just like, just get this sucker to a four-point game.”

Though the clock was running out, the fat lady had yet to sing. The Spartans sprinted down, looking for a 3-pointer. Their first attempt missed but was recovered by senior Dylan Farr, who promptly dribbled back and nailed a 3-pointer with just :02.1 left. In the ensuing scramble to get the ball in, Emporia was whistled for a delay of game. George immediately began yelling at the refs, saying the game was over.

“That happened to us at Shawnee Heights,” George said. “What I found out was, refs across the state sent it to me, in the [rule book], if a team gets an intentional delay of game under five seconds, they run the clock off. I know everybody in the stands’ probably saying, ‘Well, it was only half a second,’ [but] we’ve seen it all this year I feel like, so I wasn’t going to leave it to chance.”

The refs disagreed, putting :00.5 on the clock. Marsh, who was inbounding the ball, chucked the ball to half court. Emporia grabbed it, sending up a prayer that would have counted. The shot went long, giving Manhattan the win.

“Even the last shot,” Marsh said, “I was holding my breath a little bit, then I finally realized, like, ‘Oh my God, we actually won one.’”

Though the four-straight close losses gave Manhattan experience for the win, they almost came back to haunt MHS.

“Being in four,” Ostermann said, “it’s almost harder because you think about it, and you come back to it, and you’re like ‘Damn, I don’t want this to happen again, this can’t happen again to us.’”

Through those loses, George continually reminded the team to stay the course.

“I never saw our guys with their heads down,” George said, “and they really did, they stayed the course. I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s what they did, and it benefited us tonight.”

It’s a win the Indians are proud of.

“It just feels great to be able to accomplish this with these guys,” Ostermann said. “I told Coach [Tony] Ingram when we were back in there, I’ve been waiting for that moment for four years, where we finish out a close game and I hit a big shot.”

However, Manhattan can’t dwell on the win too long. The Indians return to action on Tuesday hosting Topeka High (10-6, 7-3). The last time the teams faced, T-High got the better of the Indians, winning on a buzzer-beater. MHS knows it still needs to improve to ensure a victory.

“I think we just got to keep working,” Marsh said, “got to keep getting better day in and day out. I think we’ll be ready for them.”