Up 20 points late in the third quarter, it looked like Manhattan might get to cruise to a Senior Night victory over Shawnee Heights. The Indians didn’t make it that easy though.
“We get up like 20 and then we’re like, ‘Oh, we won the game,’” senior Carson Marsh said, “but in reality, we didn’t, they came back to like four. Proves that no game is over until it’s actually over, but we pulled out the win.”
MHS (11-9, 6-7 Centennial League) hit enough shots down the stretch to hold off Shawnee Heights (5-15, 1-12) and get the Senior Night win 68-63.
The game looked like it would be a close finish early on as neither team could miss a shot. Manhattan went off for 20 points in the first quarter, including eight of a team-high 16 from Marsh.
“It got my confidence going a lot,” Marsh said. “It always feels good when you hit a three and the crowd just goes nuts and stuff. I just shot confident the rest of the night.”
As the shots were falling, the crowd was getting louder, propelling the team even more.
“All the energy they bring is huge to us every time because it just gets up pumped up on the floor and lets us play harder and gets our adrenaline flowing,” senior John Ostermann said.
The Indians continued to push, opening up a nine-point lead late in the half off of a buzzer-beating floater from senior Nate Awbrey. The shot capped off a 9-0 run for MHS, giving the Indians key momentum.
“[Shawnee Heights] hadn’t scored I think about the last three or four minutes,” Awbrey said, “and then knocking down those two free throws and pushing it to nine really gave us confidence that we could really open up this game if we came out and played good.”
Manhattan kept it going in the second half, opening up the game even more.
“I thought we were executing well,” head coach Benji George said, “hitting our shots. Second half especially, early on we started cutting in hard and hit some cutters at the rim, everything was kind of clicking.”
The Indians ran out to a 20-point lead near the end of the third quarter before five quick Shawnee Heights points made it 56-41 after three quarters.
SHHS kept its momentum going, scoring the first 10 points of the fourth quarter and holding MHS scoreless for almost five minutes.
“[It was] turnovers,” George said, “[and] not hitting the open man. Not being very fundamentally sound at times gave them some open looks, got them some confidence going. It just took a while for us to get the momentum back.”
The Indians knocked the lid off the basket with a bucket from Awbrey, entering a back-and-forth battle.
“We’ve been through this a few times this year,” Awbrey said. “We just had to keep talking to each other, and even when shots weren’t falling, free throws weren’t going in, we had to make sure we were getting stops and rebounds on defense.”
Manhattan led by just three points with a minute left in the game. Even so, the Indians had faith they would win.
“I never really felt like they were going to be able to come and get the win fully because the time was against them,” Ostermann said. “I knew we could settle ourselves down and go to the free throw line and knock down some free throws and then get our defense set up again, which they had been struggling to score against all night.”
MHS made just enough free throws, going 4-for-11 from the line in the final minute to win 68-63.
With the win, Manhattan clinched a top-eight seed in the playoffs, guaranteeing one more home game.
“We have a great student body,” Awbrey said. “They really bring energy to the game. I think it’s good to be able to play at home, have a familiar setting, have the home crowd behind you, so I think it’s a big thing for us.”
The Indians will host Wichita North (9-11) on Wednesday. With the win-or-go-home nature of the playoffs, the seniors know they have to give it their all.
“This game could be our last game,” senior Dawson Stewart said, “so we got to play it like it’s our last. We got to play every game like it’s our last, but this one’s obviously possible to be our last, so we got to go out there and just play for each other and whatever happens, we got each other’s backs.”