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Manchester offense keeps North Miami at bay

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GLIDE: North Miami’s Tristan Working flies past a Manchester defender for a layup during Friday night’s TRC boys’ basketball game. Working led the Warriors with 24 points in the 60-56 loss to the Squires.
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CORNER CATCH: North Miami’s Greg Sonafrank (L) and Nate Musselman (14) try to trap a Manchester player late in the first half of Friday night’s TRC boys’ basketball game. The Squires weren’t ones to be caught in a corner, however, notching a season-high points tally to defeat the Warriors 80-56.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

A chance to move to .500 and pick up a first TRC boys’ basketball win for the 2018-19 season was at hand for North Miami against Manchester Friday night.

Early turnovers and a hot-shooting Squire offense proved to be winning combination for the visitors, who set a new season-high scoring total in defeating the Warriors 80-56.

North Miami head coach Cliff Hawkins said the visitors had a strong offensive night and didn’t allow the hosts to build off of their win against Caston.

“We played a great game against Caston last week but Manchester is a little different animal,” Hawkins said. “The saving grace from tonight was that we scored 56 points.

“We love this team and need to continually get better. This group continues to battle away and the dig out for this group is going to be long but we’re going to stay true to the course.”

Manchester started the game on the front foot by scoring three times off of steals in the opening minutes of the contest.

Kam Lester grabbed the first, setting up Thane Creager for a three to open the scoring, followed by Max Carter swiping the ball for Lester to lay in.

Lester added another early steal that Weston Hamby used to knock down a free throw, having hit two free throws earlier, to give the Squires an 8-0 lead.

Braxton Beall got the hosts on the board with a three and a three-point play, narrowing the gap to 10-6.

Tristan Working hit a jumper to get the lead down to 10-8 but that would be the closest North Miami would get for the rest of the contest.

Back-to-back threes from Caleb Stout saw the Squires race out to a 16-8 lead and would take the eight-point gap into the second period leading 18-10.

Turnovers early on were a plague the team was having a hard time trying to cure itself of according to Hawkins.

“In the first quarter of our three previous conference games, 21 percent of our possessions were turnovers, we have a 2:1 turnover-to-assist ratio and we shot 22 percent from the field,” Hawkins noted. “The first quarter of games have been miserable for us.

“I do want to praise our white team because this is one of the best weeks of preparation we’ve had this season, even though we can’t simulate what teams have that well.”

Lester opened the frame with another steal, dishing off to Hamby for a layup, followed by a putback from Kreeden Krull that gave Manchester a 22-10 lead.

The advantage grew to 28-12 following a Carter steal and Creager basket before Nate Musselman knocked down a three, only for Hamby to answer in kind.

A pair of Malachi Sanderson threes briefly saw the Warriors trim the gap to 34-21 as the final two minutes of the half approached.

Creager answered with a three, Carter hit two free throws and though Working converted a three point play, Stout made the best of a near turnover to hit a three that closed the half with the visitors leading 42-24.

Hawkins said the team lacked coverage on shooters throughout the first half and were punished accordingly.

“We were in a spot where we hit the two threes to be down 34-21 and the next thing you know we’re down 42-24,” Hawkins said. “We had trouble defending the three in the first half and when we got that calmed down we couldn’t defend their penetration.

“We’ve been Manchester’s get-well game after their county tournament, especially this year. They got really well because they have a lot of good ball players.”

With an 18-point gap to work with, Manchester was content to trade off baskets with North Miami throughout the remainder of the game.

The Squires would extend the lead to as large as 26 at the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter on separate baskets from Creager, Carter and Lester while the Warriors would not be able to get closer than 16 the rest of the night.

North Miami was able to speed up the game at times but where Manchester was able to pick its spots effectively, Hawkins said occasionally the hosts got bogged down when they needed to improvise.

“The next thing we need to get better in is transition because there are times we don’t know where to go,” Hawkins said. “Sometimes, we have to reset and it holds us up to where we don’t get the movement we need.

“Some of our best plays came from dead balls not because of the play itself but because we were able to get set. We have to continue to work at that.”

North Miami will be on the court again next Friday when the team hosts Northfield for a JV/Varsity boys’ and girls’ triple-header.

Hawkins said the Norsemen took Manchester into overtime in the Wabash County tournament and said the team needed to figure out ways to get Northfield out of any rhythm they try to build.

“Our next focus is to prepare for Northfield, which is a dangerous team, and Clinton Christian, which is a long trip,” Hawkins said. “This coming week is the first time since Maconaquah where we’ll have a full week of practice.

“Northfield has good ball movement and player movement. Against Manchester, they were allowed to run their stuff and it’s a situation where we have to try to make the opponent uncomfortable.”