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Hamby's late three pushes Squires over Tigers

LAYUP: Manchester’s Weston Hamby layups the ball up while being fouled during Friday’s game against Peru.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

With life breathed back into the TRC boys’ basketball race following Wabash’s loss earlier this week, Manchester was back in control of its own fate with Peru visiting Friday night.

The Tigers controlled much of the game in terms of lead and tempo but when it counted most, the Squires managed to drag the game to overtime and Weston Hamby took the space afforded him in the final 10 seconds to bury a three and keep the hosts’ conference title hopes alive with a 47-46 win.

Manchester head coach Mark Underwood said expectations nearly got the better of the team but the boys buckled down, made plays and got the job done.

“We’ve struggled with that a little bit this year, going back to the county tournament against Southwood,” Underwood noted when asked about the reprieve this week. “It’s easy for these guys to put too much pressure on themselves because they want it too much. We told them it’s a basketball game; don’t make it any bigger than it is. The sun will come out tomorrow even if they lost but, we told them, it would be a lot brighter tomorrow with a win.

“That was the approach we took,” Underwood added. “They guys did it together tonight and even if Weston hit the last shot, it was a total team effort for us.”

Despite being the penultimate home game of the season, Manchester used the night to honor its senior players and got its first seven points from seniors as Kam Lester turned a steal into a layup, Konrad Borgman buried an open three and Brayden Casper added a basket for an even 7-7 start.

Hamby scored to give the Squires a 9-7 lead but it would be the last lead the team held for nearly 30 minutes of game time.

Much of Peru’s offense came from its reserves in the opening period as Kash Bellar knocked down a pair of short jumpers, Kade Townsend connected on a three and a layup and Matt Ross scored at the end of the period to give the Tigers a 13-11 lead going into the second quarter.

Daunte Majors notched two free throws and a layup to stretch the lead to six before Casper hit two free throws and Thane Creager hit a three to trim the gap to 17-16.

Bellar scored again before a DJ Fuller basket that saw the lead extended to five, only for Hamby and Creager to hit four-straight from the line.

The Tigers closed the half well as Chandler got a basket and a free throw and Majors added a layup and two more free throws to give the visitors a 28-21 lead at halftime.

Half of Peru’s halftime points came from sources Underwood said the team hadn’t focused on as much such as Bellar and Townsend.

“We had a scouting report, watched film and those guys weren’t a big part of what we were trying to stop,” Underwood said. “We did a good job of stopping guys like Fuller and Majors but at the same time, they have other guys that can step up.

“At halftime, we said we can’t ignore anybody. They had guys who could do a lot of nice things, so we had to shore things up and while we weren’t happy the way they got to the baseline on us, at least that gives us something to work on in practice.”

Wabash closed the deficit to two after Lester opened the second half with a basket and Logan Parrett hit two free throws but a Fuller basket and three-point play, followed by a Townsend three and free throw, moved Peru out to a 36-27 lead.

Casper scored before the end of the period to make it a seven-point game a 36-29 with eight minutes to play. Caleb Stout opened the fourth quarter with a basket that was cancelled out by a Treyden Curtis layup. Max Carter saw his basket answered by Majors as the Tigers bled out the clock, taking up huge chunks of time on each possession. Lester converted a three-point play with just over two minutes to play but chances were still few and far between.

The Squires created opportunities off of steals, turning a Peru steal around into a Creager layup before Hamby swiped the ball and tied the game with 35 seconds left with a layup. The Tigers held the ball for the last shot but never got one away, sending the game to overtime. Casper missed two early free throws and Fuller punished the misses with a three for a 43-40 lead. Hamby hit two free throws only to see Bellar can a three from the corner to extend the lead to 46-42.

A key moment in the overtime period soon happened off a Manchester miss as Peru secured the rebound, only for a foul off the ball to be called that gave Casper two more shots at the line, free throws the senior connected on. Both teams started to feel the heat as the Tigers missed a layup only for the Squires to throw the ball into the student section on back-to-back possessions.

After a pass was deflected out of bounds, the hosts called timeout and from the inbounds play, Hamby was given acres of space behind the arc and lifted a three that gave the host a 47-46 lead. Peru had a chance to win the game and got Fuller free at the free throw line but his shot was off and Bellar’s follow-up was short as well, keeping Manchester in the hunt for a TRC title.

The setup for the final play of both regulation and overtime were not too dissimilar to what happened the prior season and Underwood said the team wasn’t going to let Majors, who started off both plays, decide the outcome.

“We lost last year at Peru on a last-second shot by Daunte, so we talked a lot about that play,” Underwood said. “We did a good job of keeping him from getting anything. He had the ball at the end and I think there were three Squires around him. It was a good game for the boys and I give all the credit to them because they’re the ones playing their hearts out, coming together and playing unselfish.”

Manchester will host Columbia City Tuesday night before hitting the road for the remainder of the season, including the final two TRC games of the year at Maconaquah Friday and Whitko next Tuesday.

Underwood said the team would get a day off to rest before getting back to work next week.

“First of all, we’re giving the guys Saturday off,” Underwood said. “It’s probably not the best for the Columbia City game but it’s the best thing for us to make a conference championship and tournament run. Are we going to prepare and try to win the Columbia City game? Absolutely. We want the guys to be fresh, to keep their legs under them, come in on Monday, have a great practice, try to extend it out Tuesday and keep improving.”