That’s what happened to Manual in its 72-55 victory over host Eastern in boys’ high school basketball Friday night. The Crimsons (16-3), the fifth-highest scoring team in the state (75.1 points per game), found themselves in a rut midway through the first quarter. The No.4 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings went without a basket for 3:50 and was trailing 16-5 just five minutes into the game.
Coach Jimmy Just and his team never panicked, though, as the coach told his players to ease off the accelerator.
“We got ourselves down, and we started trying to score real quick,” Just said. “Once we slowed down, I think things got a little better for us.”
Despite shooting 5 of 15 in the quarter, Manual was able to cut the Eagles’ lead to 18-14 by the end of it. The Crimsons then rattled off 3-pointers by Jake Chilton, Marquis McClendon and Ja’Kory Freeman within a span of 80 seconds early in the second quarter. Freeman’s three gave Manual a 23-20 lead with 6:14 left in the half, and the Crimsons never trailed again.
Not only did the 3s put Manual up, they also forced Eastern to extend its defense. That opened the floor and the floodgates for Manual.
“They were big time,” said forward Dwayne Sutton, who finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Eastern was “helping in on the post, so I kicked out to my teammates, and they knocked them down. Big shots.”
After the first quarter, Manual would shoot 55.9 percent (19 of 34) the rest of the way.
As Manual began to knock down shots, it applied pressure on the other side of the court. The Crimsons forced 16 turnovers and scored 22 points off those miscues. And when Eastern didn’t commit a turnover, they found themselves often rushing a shot.
“Basketball 101,” Eagles coach David Henley said. “Bad shots lead to layups on the other end.”
Sutton, a North Carolina-Asheville commit, also added three blocks and three steals. After Eastern’s Cameron Reed hit a 3 to cut Manual’s lead to 25-24, Sutton scored six of the Crimson’s points in a run that gave them a 35-25 halftime lead.
Eastern did not closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Trey Moses, a Ball State commit, led the hosts with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Caleb Williams added 14, and Reed scored 13 for Eastern, which hosts St. Xavier on Tuesday.
Chilton added 11 and Freeman went for 10 for Manual, which will visit Moore on Tuesday.
Not only was Just proud of the way his team rebounded from the poor start, he was also proud of the way they were able to play against a bigger team, led by the 6-foot-9 Moses.
“Eastern’s an awfully good team,” Just said. “That should do nothing but get us ready for the postseason.”
Manual (16-3) – West 8, Harness 6, Freeman 10, Sutton 26, McClendon 9, Niemann 2, Chilton 11.
Eastern (13-4) – Knight 4, Wyche 4, Corneilson 2, Reed 13, Jones 2, Williams 14, Moses 16.
3-point goals – Freeman 2, Sutton, McClendon, Chilton 2, Reed 2, Williams 2.