Manchester sophomore Gavin Betten gives Cougar senior Seth Martin a pump fake before going up for a shot during the Squires’ 79-36 win at Lakeland Christian Tuesday. Photos by Gary Nieter
Manchester sophomore Gavin Betten gives Cougar senior Seth Martin a pump fake before going up for a shot during the Squires’ 79-36 win at Lakeland Christian Tuesday. Photos by Gary Nieter
The Manchester Squires have showcased the ability to put up points in a hurry all season long. The team’s talent and ability to control games was on full display Tuesday night as the Squires secured a dominant 79-36 road victory over Lakeland Christian Academy.

Manchester’s dominant offense was headlined by four double-digit scorers. Leading the way once again was sophomore Gavin Martin, who compiled 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Fellow sophomore Ethan Hendrix used a high-percentage shooting night to finish with 17, while juniors Gavin Martin and Tyler McLain scored 16 and 10.

“We’re getting better and better. We want them to keep taking these steps forward,” Manchester head coach Eli Henson said after the game. “And they do that every week, in practices, in games. They’re a dedicated group and it shows. They’re figuring out what it takes to win at that next level.”

The Cougars used their home court advantage to make things a little complicated over the course of the Squires’ first few possessions. Manchester was unable to get much going over the first couple minutes of gameplay, looking a bit discombobulated at times. LCA was able to use their opponent’s slow start against them, scoring the first four points of the game, all from senior standout Seth Martin.

After getting over the initial sloppiness, it didn’t take long for the Squires to show their class as the visitors ripped off a quick nine points in a row to answer. Now facing a hole of their own, it was the Cougars’ turn to respond. Outside of Martin, who has torched a variety of defenses this season, the other players on the court for LCA struggled to create space consistently. A big part of this was the defensive scheme of Manchester, which sprung double-teams out of nowhere that more times than not caught LCA ball handlers off guard, leading to some easy transition scores for the visitors. Despite the overall team struggles, Seth was able to score 16 points.

“Our goal was to do what we could to frustrate him and make him work for his points,” Henson said. “I thought we did a good job of that in the first half, he started to get going in the second.”

Leading 16-8 going into the second, Manchester put together one of the best quarters of basketball it has all season long. It didn’t matter who shot the ball for Manchester, whether it was Ethan Hendrix or Gavin Martin from deep, or Gavin Betten down low in the post. For eight straight minutes, everything that the Squires did worked, as they outscored their opponents 31-6 in the period.

“Our energy really picked up in that quarter, and it showed with what we were able to do,” Henson said. “We rebounded well, had a ton of open shots. Our effort was really showcased and that’s what we’ve been working on.”

On the other end of the court, the defense remained stout. Betten and Kaleb Kline each picked up two blocks in the first half. The Cougars tried a variety of different ways to break the pressure but was unable to get many points up onto the scoreboard. Simply put, the hustle battle belonged to Manchester as well. The Squires were on top of every offensive rebound opportunity, grabbed every loose ball and recovered quickly on defense on the rare occasion they were beaten off the dribble.

“We wanted to speed them up. We wanted to get the tempo going to where we like it, which is up and down the court,” Henson explained. “I think by the time the second quarter got going they were a little tired.”

When the dust finally settled, Manchester held a 33-point lead heading into the second half. Just over a minute into the third quarter, a layup from Hendrix would extend the lead to 35, bringing the IHSAA mercy rule into the fray. Starters for both sides remained on the court for the third, which was a nice bounce back quarter for the Cougars. Though the team didn’t chip into the lead all that much, it outscored its first half total by three. A big part of the burst was Martin, who was able to find some room in the paint and convert his open looks into points.

The fourth quarter saw the visitors removing most of their starters and giving the reserves some run. LCA followed not long afterwards. Cougar sophomore Josiah Rice punctuated a solid night with a good fourth quarter performance, finishing his evening with eight points. For Manchester, it was sophomore Carter Wagoner making the most of his extended minutes, as he scored six of his eight points in the final four minutes of play to go with six rebounds.

Lakeland Christian (16-4) will travel to Oregon-Davis for its next game Friday night. Manchester is also in action Friday, traveling to Maconaquah for a huge Three Rivers Conference contest. A win for the Squires will give Manchester a chance for a share of the conference title.

“It’s going to be a great game. They play the same way we play. They trap, they pressure,” Henson said. “It’s going to be a high scoring game but we have to make sure we don’t turn the ball over. It seems that in every big game we play against quality opponents we struggle taking care of the ball. That’s going to be the difference for us.”