Classic update: Manhattan powers its way to finals

By Steve Sell
January 31, 2014
Kendall Shaw

The Manhattan Indians looked every bit the No. 1 seed and Mid America Classic prohibitive favorite Friday night in the semifinals against Shawnee Mission South.

The Indians’ first-half defense was suffocating as they blew out to a 39-16 lead and went on to strafe the Raiders 66-35 to advance to the Classic finals for the second year in a row.

They will play tourney host McPherson at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

"I thought we played a lot better," said Manhattan coach Scott Mall, whose team is now 11-1. "I thought our intensity defensively was more like when we played well. We did what we needed to do and got after the ball. Offensively, I thought we moved the ball a lot better, then it always helps when you make some shots. It helped that we got some really good shots early by moving the ball."

The Indians held the Raiders to 33 percent from the field in the first half and moved the ball expertly on the offensive end, with the exclamation point a 3-point bank from the top of the key by Molly Fiser just before the buzzer. Manhattan was 16 of 25 for 64 percent and the Raiders were just 6 of 18 as they turned it over 11 times.

The second half was more of the same, as it was a stress-free night for the Class 6A power.

Manhattan's Darby Price, who is a frontrunner to make the five-member All-Tournament Team, had another big game inside with 18 points and eight rebounds. 

"She uses her size really well inside for a girl who's not all that tall," Mall said. "She moves well, she's worked hard to get herself where she's at."

Savannah Roberts chipped in with 12 points and eight rebounds, as Manhattan ruled the backboards with a staggering 45-20 rebounding advantage. 

The only blemish on the stat line was 27 turnovers, though Mall went deep into his bench relatively early and play became somewhat disjointed.

Manhattan, which lost in last year's final to Olathe South, now tangles with tourney host and No. 2 seed McPherson, the game a lot of people have really wanted to see.

"On their home court here and in this tournament, they shoot the ball so well and play so well," Mall said. "They're improving so much. (Abby) Pedersen is so good and the (Janae) Barnes girl, I thought starting with their state championship game last year, has just really come into her own and is doing a lot. And that (Hannah) Willems girl — so much more confident. It's a good tournament, for us to make it (to the finals) twice in a row is really something. The girls are really pleased about that."

Sierra Roberts scored 11 points for the Raiders, who finished just 12 of 46 from the field while turning it over 21 times. They play Andale for third place at 5:30 Saturday.