Photo by Spencer Kincaid
Photo by Spencer Kincaid

Manual settles for moral victory against #8 ranked Bullitt East

Manual Head Coach Mr. Jimmy Just addresses the Crimsons during last year’s game against Bullitt East. Photo by Spencer Kincaid.

Going into the fourth quarter, Manual had eighth-ranked Bullitt East on the ropes. The Crimsons had overcome a 12 point second quarter deficit to take the lead late in the third quarter, and had all the momentum, just down two points at the start of the final frame.

Bullitt East guard Noah Wilson (11, #14), however, did not care. To start the fourth quarter, Wilson drilled a deep three and got fouled by Manual’s Marquis McClendon (12, #23). Following a missed free throw by Wilson, a Charger teammate got a putback layin to give Bullitt East a five point possession to start the fourth quarter before Manual could get a chance to even touch the basketball.

“After that, they got hot,” Jo Aunn Rivers (12, #10) said. “We were picking up fouls and let[ting] the refs get in our heads.”

The swing gave the Chargers a 59-52 lead, and Manual would never recover, ultimately leading Bullitt East to a 76-61 victory.

The Crimsons had a stronger showing in the first half of the game. After trailing 41-29 in the second quarter, McClendon, Steven Gordon (12, #21) and Noah Hawkins (10, #42) led Manual on a 12-2 run over the last three minutes of the first half, getting the team to 43-41 by halftime.

During the run, the Crimsons were able to feed off of their defense to be effective offensively.

“We played really good defense, and we slowed the ball down on offense,” Rivers said.

“The biggest thing for us right now is that when we’re playing defense, we can come down and do a better job offensively,” Manual Head Coach Jimmy Just said. “We showed a little bit more patience and got some better shots. Sometimes when we don’t play as well defensively, it affects our offense as well, because we’re a little more impatient.”

In the third quarter, Manual went blow-for-blow with the number eight team in Kentucky, even taking a 49-48 lead with 3:05 left in the third and a 51-50 lead with a minute left in the third frame. The Chargers, however, quickly surged ahead, going on their 9-2 run to start the fourth quarter.

“We just gotta keep working,” Just said. “We’re showing that we are capable of playing with these teams, but we gotta do it for a long period of time. We have to sustain our effort. Again, it’s about working to keep getting better shots, and we struggled in the fourth quarter to score, and that makes a difference.”

Hawkins was huge for Manual. The man in the middle had eight of Manual’s first 12 points, and finished with 19 points for the ballgame. Hawkins was Manual’s most consistent scoring threat throughout the game.

“He’s just more of a threat around the basket,” Just said. “He can also step out and shoot the ball so if you don’t guard him he has a nice touch. We just have to continue to get him working. We need that presence inside to take the pressure off our perimeter guys. It was good having him out there tonight, and I think that he made a difference. We just need him to keep being consistent and keep working, and hopefully we can put it all together here by the end of February, and we’ll be alright. I know we have the potential to be where we want to be.”

The loss drops Manual to 9-9 on the season, but the Crimsons have lost six out of their last eight games after jumping out to a 7-3 start. Just, however, is not worried about the team’s record.

“I’m not worried about the struggles,” Just said. “I’m just worried whether or not our guys get to where we think they can get. I look at the teams that we’ve been playing, and I look at whether or not we’re competing. As long as we’re competing, we’re working to get better. We could go out there and play a lot of easier opponents to get some wins but we wouldn’t really be improving enough to be able to beat the team’s that we’re playing.”

Manual has had its chances to get statement wins with their tough schedule; however, outside of an opening night win over Waggener, Manual has been forced to settle for moral victories, most notably against Ballard, Trinity and tonight against the Chargers.

By playing a gauntlet of a schedule, one which is still far from over, Manual hopes to be better prepared to make a run at the regional crown in March.

“It lets us know where we stand,” Gordon said. “We’ve gotten better but we’re not where we want to be yet.”

“The win/loss record right now really isn’t a big deal,” Just said. “If we had a better record but weren’t a better team it wouldn’t mean anything. But if there’s a week left in the season and we have a 500 record but we’re a better team, then we have a chance to not only win the region, but compete for state, because we’ve played against some of the best teams in the state, and we know what we gotta get to, and we’re not that far away. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re not far away.”

Manual will be challenged again when they next take the floor, as the Crimsons will take on St. X Tigers and continue to build for the postseason.

“Again, it’s about us working out our kinks,” Just said. “Working to become more consistent offensively and defensively. We’re getting better, and I see some signs of us getting better. If we keep getting better the next three to four weeks, I like our chances.”

Manual will play at St. X this Friday, barring a severe weather/snow cancellation. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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