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Squires bounce back for TRC victory

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

NORTH MANCHESTER – After seeing his team’s six-game win streak snapped on Friday, Manchester boys’ basketball head coach challenged his team on Saturday.

The Squires answered the bell.

Exploding for 28 points in the second quarter, the Squires routed visiting Whitko on their way to an 82-59 win.

“As a coaching staff, we were really interested to see how the guys responded to a letdown last night,” Manchester head coach Mark Underwood said. “And I say a letdown, but I felt like we competed at a really high level last night against a really good Peru team. I challenged them. I told them I thought they competed at the level of a sectional championship team last night and I was interested to see how they came out tonight and responded.

“I think the guys came out and responded really well. I’m proud of the way they played as a team tonight. I’m really proud of the way they’re coming together and the team chemistry I’m seeing.”

The Squires trailed only once at 2-0 before responding with 11-straight points, the final six coming from Mason Hamby.

The lead only continued to grow throughout the half. Hamby would cap off a 10-2 run to start the second quarter to lead 27-8. Koehl Fluke’s jumper midway through the quarter gave Manchester a 20-point lead.

Back-to-back threes from Brayden Casper pushed the margin to 41-13 before Fluke capped off the impressive half with a buzzer-beating three-pointer over a pair of defenders, giving Manchester a 45-17 lead at the break.

The second half saw Whitko standout River West light up the scoreboard, pouring in 21 of his game-high 29 points in the final two periods.

“Well he still got a bunch of points, didn’t he? But I think early on when the game was being decided, I felt like Koehl Fluke did a really nice job on him defensively,” Underwood said of West. “We knew that we couldn’t just have one guy chase him all night, especially after a tough game last night. We needed to kind of share the load there and I think Brayden Casper did a good job on him as well and I think Weston Hamby, all three of the guys did a good job on him. We had to keep fresh people on him and he still found a way to get a lot of points. He’s a really good player.”

Despite West’s performance, the Squire lead never dipped below 20 points the rest of the night as Manchester secured their 11th win of the season and sixth win in conference play.

Hamby finished with 19 points while Casper chipped in 15 and Weston Hamby 12. Mason Hamby pulled down nine rebounds while Kam Lester and Weston Hamby each had seven assists and six rebounds.

Brett Sickafoose chipped in 16 points for Whitko while Shad Ebbinghouse had nine. With the result, Manchester finishes the conference season with a 6-3 record. At worst, the Squires can finish tied for third in the conference.

Manchester will be off until Friday when they travel to Columbia City. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.