Defense is Manual’s best offense against Spring Hill


Photo by Kate Hatter.

Jack Grossman

After just being beat by Spring Hill’s Alex Harrison (12, #34), Tim Comstock (12, #24) hustled back down the floor, back-tipped the ball away from Harrison and into Steven Gordon’s (12, #21) hands. Gordon then found Jo Aunn Rivers who hit a layup to give Manual a 30-29 lead over Spring Hill (Tennessee) with five minutes left in the third quarter.

“We just picked our aggressiveness up,” Rivers said. “We pressured a lot in corners and caused turnovers.”

The play came in the mix of a 10-0 Crimson run, in which Manual scored all ten points off of 5 straight Raider turnovers. Manual’s best offense of the night was forcing Spring Hill into turnovers, and getting easy buckets off of those turnovers.

“That was what our offense ended up being a lot of the time was off of defense,” Head Coach Jimmy Just said. “That was the difference in the game for us. Offensively, we were a little bit sluggish at times, we got to learn how to knock down shots, and show some patience, and eventually I think we will. But our defense definitely created our offense for us tonight.”

Rivers’ layup gave Manual a one point lead, a lead that Manual would not give up for the rest of the ballgame. The 10-0 run sparked a huge second half for Manual, in which the Crimsons outscored the Raiders 37-14 in the final two quarters of the game to win 57-39. Manual ended the game on a 9-0 run to close out Spring Hill by attacking the Raiders’ 2-3 zone.

“Since the defense was in a 2-3 [zone], it opened up a lot of gaps so we just took the opportunities that were there,” Rivers said.

Early on though, the Crimsons struggled to score. Manual’s only reliable option on the offensive end was center Noah Hawkins (10, #42).

“Early he was giving us somebody that could score under the basket against their size,” Just said. “Noah was able to use his size and felt comfortable shooting around the basket.”

Hawkins had eight points in the first half and finished with 12 for the ballgame.

“Every game I’ve been becoming more confident, and just more confident on the floor with the pressure that’s put on me,” Hawkins said. “I’ve just been able to perform better each game.”

Later in the game, Manual simplified its attack in the zone, which created a bit more success for the Crimsons in the half court.

“We got a lot of different things that I thought we could do that caused them to just not feel comfortable, so we just simplified it in the second half and we got better,” Just said.

Early on, Manual got a lift from its bench. In the second quarter, Kenyon Jacob (10 ,#22) scored five straight points to spark a 7-0 Crimson run. Jacob finished with nine points, and Will Britt (11, #23) and Jordan McClendon (10, #30), also added some significant minutes of the bench.

“It’s doing a nice job, I think we’re getting some lifts from it,” Just said. “I just think that we gotta continue to grow our bench; our bench has to continue to give us some depth, and we got some other guys who aren’t getting a lot of time right now to step up and give us some time down the road.”

In Spring Hill, Manual faced a team of which they had very little knowledge. The Raiders are located in Columbia, Tennessee, which is about three hours south of Louisville. Even though Just and his coaching staff were able to find one tape of Spring Hill, Manual did not know exactly what to expect from the Raiders, but the coaches were able to make key in-game adjustments to help Manual take control of the game in the second half.

“Sometimes you don’t get to learn much about the team that you’re playing, but we did get a film on this team, and we knew a little bit,” Just said. “There were still some things though that we didn’t know what was going to happen. You have to learn as the game goes on, and hopefully you learn quick enough to where it won’t hurt you. If there are some things that they do well that you don’t figure out early, you could be in some trouble.”

Manual will now move into the semifinals of the Best in Hoops tournament, against perennial power Lexington Catholic, who are the defending 11th regional champions. Lexington Catholic will present a different kind of challenge for the Crimsons.

“They’re a different kind of team, it’ll be a different kind of game,” Just said.” They’ll press us more, and they’ll do some things differently than what they [Spring Hill] did tonight. I don’t know if they’ll handle our pressure in the same way, I’m not sure if we’re going to need to pressure in the same way.”

Lexington Catholic and Manual will meet in the semifinals of the Best in Hoops tournament on Saturday, December 19. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Oldham County High School.