Girls Win; Boys Fall To Squires

Posted on December 2, 2019 in Boy's Basketball, Girl's Basketball, Winter Sports

BY JACOB RUDE – sports@wabashplaindealer.com
NORTH MANCHESTER – Saturday night was a simple tale of two halves between Manchester and Oak Hill’s girls’ basketball teams. A young, energetic Manchester came out firing at home, leading for the vast majority of the first two quarters.

But a more experienced Oak Hill side had a stronger rebuttal, outscoring the hosts by eight points in the second half to come from behind for a 40-34 win. The win for the Eagles, though, came with some lessons learned.

The Squires squeaked out a 53-52 win over the Eagles’ boys in the nightcap of the varsity doubleheader.

“To me, it came down to effort,” Oak Hill head coach Todd Law said. “I was not happy with our effort in the first half in any shape or form on either end of the basketball floor. I thought Manchester came out very strong, slapped us in the face and we just sat there and took it. Our kids weren’t ready to play. Luckily, we regrouped and came out and made enough plays in the second half and were able to squeak out the win.”

The Squires fell behind early but turned turnovers into points, take an 11-10 lead after a four-point play opportunity from Ranissa Shambarger. Manchester would not relinquish the lead, though the guests tied the game on a pair of occasions.

The lead reached its biggest in the second quarter after a three-point play from Makenzy Meyer gave the Squires a 20-15 lead. Abby Shaw connected on a three-pointer, her third of the half, just before the halftime buzzer to give Oak Hill momentum.

The Eagles used that momentum to open up the third with a 14-5 run, capped off with a three-pointer from Audrey Leak to put Oak Hill up 32-25.

“They switched defenses a little bit on us and that kind of threw us for a loop and we tried to force stuff,” Manchester head coach Josh Troyer said of the third period. “We made a lot of uncharacteristic passes. I don’t know what came over us there for a little bit, but I think we lost some of that composure. I thought we settled down and tried to claw back in there but we couldn’t get shots to fall late.”

A three-pointer from Emma Garriott and a layup from Mackenzie Day helped Manchester pull within one possession heading into the fourth and consecutive layups from Meyer closed the gap all the way down to a single point. Oak Hill’s Carlee Biddle connected on the biggest shot of the night, burying a straight-away three-pointer to restore a four-point cushion.

Biddle, a junior, knocked in a pair of free throws with 27.6 left to seal the victory, and five of her six points coming in the closing minutes.

Troyer pointed to the three-pointer just before the halftime break as the beginnings of a turning point on the night but noted the improved play from his growing side.

“(Oak Hill’s) a hard team, especially with those big girls inside,” he said. “Our girls are continuing to learn. I love how hard our post players are playing. The fact that they weren’t scared of (Taylor) Westgate or (Kate) Hornocker is something to be proud of. We shot 54 percent from two which is light years above what we’ve been shooting this year. Defensively, I thought we played better. We were more patient than we had been.

“The second half, it was a close game with a young varsity squad…and I thought that showed. We just weren’t ready for that yet. We’ll continue to learn from it and grow and continue to go into next week.”

Westgate struggled with the Squires’ interior defense on the night, finishing with eight points. But the Eagles hit seven threes on the night, five from Shaw, to help overcome both a slow night from their senior forward and a bevy of turnovers, particularly in the first half.

“That’s three games in a row we’ve shot the three really well,” Law said. “Obviously, teams are coming in and game planning to stop Taylor inside. If we can do that consistently, that’ll force teams to come out. We hit some big threes and that one Carlee (Biddle) hit late was huge because they were making a comeback run on us.”

Shambarger scored nine points to lead Manchester with all of them coming in the first half. Meyer and Day had seven and six points, respectively.

“We’ve got to be a more patient team,” Troyer said. “We want to run when it’s there but we just haven’t been able to do that a lot and when we do run, we usually make some poor decisions. We’re trying to tweak our identity again. I think we’re getting close. To be that close with a good team shows where we’re at.”

Oak Hill improves to 4-3 with the win, it’s third straight. The Eagles travel to Peru on Wednesday. Manchester drops to 1-7 with its sixth straight loss. The Squires will be off until Saturday when they host Northfield.

In the second game of the night,Manchester coach Mark Underwood challenged his team after a sloppy start to the season on Wednesday. The response played out on its home court against visiting Oak Hill, as the Squires trailed only briefly in the opening stages of the game, led by as many as 11 in the second half and survived a spirited rally from the visitors late in the fourth to secure their first win of the season, 53-52.

“We challenged the kids,” Underwood said. “Of course, we want to win the County Tournament, win the sectional and win the conference. But before any of that can happen, we feel like the three things we have to do is outwork every team we play, continue to improve and represent this school and ourselves in a class manner. We did not, in game one, feel like we outworked Bluffton. We felt like they delivered the knockout punch and we just got back on our heels and did not retaliate. That was disappointing.

“We just really challenged the guys to play with heart and play with some guts and to make sure, after the game, to say be able to say we played every bit as hard as the other team did.”

Manchester used an 8-2 run in the middle stages of the third period with baskets from Kreeden Krull, Weston Hamby, Max Carter and Thane Creager to open up a 41-30 lead.

A Mason McKinney-inspired run on either side of the quarter break helped the Eagles close the gap to 45-43 with the junior forward scoring eight points in that span. Manchester pushed the lead back out to six after a pair of free throws from Austin Underwood and a basket from Creager but Oak Hill had one final push.

Clay McCorkle hit a floater with 1:25 left and Jacob Winger split his free throws to pull the Eagles to within two at 51-49 with 1:10 left. After forcing a turnover, Oak Hill had a chance to tie or take the lead but a baseline jumper hit the back iron, Hamby would eventually collect the ball and would be fouled and Manchester survived on the night.

Kody Dubois buried a three-pointer with seven-tenths of a second but Oak Hill could not foul before the final buzzer sounded.

“Oak Hill is a very good basketball team,” Underwood said. “We had to play really well to beat them. But the guys not only gave a great effort but they improved over last game…and the mental focus and togetherness was so much more evident than in game one.”

Hamby finished with 16 points, six of those in the fourth, while Creager had 11 and Carter nine.

The Eagles were led by McCorkle’s 13 points while DuBois and McKinney had 12 and 11, respectively.

Both sides sit at 1-1 on the year through two games. Oak Hill is off until Saturday at home against Taylor while Manchester travels to Wawasee on Friday.

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