The Manhattan Indians used a strong run at the end of the first quarter to roll through Leavenworth Friday afternoon, beating the Pioneers 54-44.
With the win, Manhattan moved to 1-1 in the 2018 Tournament of Champions. Leavenworth fell to 0-2 through the first two days of the TOC.
The Indians will play for fifth place Saturday afternoon.
“Defensively we really set a tone, and that’s been the strength of our team this year,” Manhattan head coach Benji George said. “Early on the defense kept us in the game while we got things going offensively, and then it created some offense for us, so really proud of our defensive effort and proud of our guys’ resiliency. We’ve lost two games in a row once in the last four years and our guys weren’t about to let that happen again, so I thought we played with a lot of pride there.”
After Leavenworth took an early 2-0 lead, neither team scored until Manhattan tied the score with 3:30 left in the first. Manhattan trailed 8-4 at one point, but eventually pushed back, taking the lead with 42 seconds left, part of an 8-0 run by the Indians to end the opening quarter. The Indians led 12-8 at the end of the first.
From there, Manhattan never looked back. The Indians outscored the Pioneers 14-3 in the second quarter, taking a 26-11 lead into halftime.
George said finding consistency on offense has been an area of emphasis for the team this year.
“Once we get it going offensively we showed what kind of team we can be but it’s just getting into rhythm,” George said. “It started with some tempo, we pushed the ball up the floor a little bit better and I thought we did a good job of wearing them out by running the floor and that led to some easy baskets.”
From there, Manhattan was essentially on cruise-control. The Pioneers hung with the Indians in the third quarter, but Manhattan outscored them 16-14 even in that one.
The Indians out-rebounded the Pioneers 28-22 overall including 21-15 on the defensive glass.
The 14-3 second quarter was an example of the defensive energy the team played with at times Friday night.
“We maintained defensive energy (in the second quarter) and then the biggest thing was we rebounded the basketball,” George said. “They were one-shot out, it gave us more opportunities to score and I thought we took care of the ball pretty well, the first half especially, and so a lot of it (was) just riding our offense.
Manhattan senior Carson Marsh tied for a game-high 12 points. Senior Nate Awbrey had 10.
George said sophomore Mitch Munsen was a player who outperformed what the stats might reveal.
“Off the bench I thought Mitch Munsen gave great minutes,” George said. “He’s a sophomore kid, he played freshman basketball last year, making a big jump and I just thought gave us great minutes. Got his hand on some passes defensively, boards the ball well.”
Junior Lawson Monaco was another.
“I thought defensively Lawson Monaco played with a lot of energy,” George said. “It probably hurts him a little bit on the offensive end of the floor because his legs go a little bit, but I thought he gave great defensive effort today.”
With the win, Manhattan will play Saturday at 1:30 p.m. while Leavenworth will play at noon on Saturday.
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