NEW FRANKLIN: Manchester went a long way in securing yet another PAC-7 regular-season title with a tough 60-44 home win over second-place Triway on Wednesday night.
With the win, the Panthers (14-3, 8-1) take sole possession of first place over Triway (11-3, 8-2), and have given the Titans both of their league losses. Manchester beat Triway 70-44 at Triway on Dec. 15.
“I told them the second we walked off the floor down there — we won by 30 but they were without two of their better kids — that the biggest game of the year will be when Triway comes to our place,” Manchester coach Tucker Pappas said. “I said, ‘That game will be for the PAC-7 championship.’ We still have to take care of business, but we knew this would be the biggest game of the year.”
Sophomore Alex Klein played nearly the entire game with a very sore mouth but was deadly from 3-point range and led the Panthers offensively. Klein took a hard elbow to the jaw in the first quarter and left the game.
She returned after a few moments and went on to score a game-high 23 points and had a double-double with 10 rebounds.
“Alex just hits big shot after big shot after big shot,” Pappas said. “She’s averaging something like 17 points a game as a sophomore. She rebounds, she plays defense, she’s working on her ball-handling. She’s a ballplayer.”
Klein said this win could propel the Panthers and keep them looking forward.
“It’s good; it [the physical play] motivated us to come back,” she said. “We had to beat them because this was a really big game for both of us. It gives us a lot of motivation to keep winning.”
Klein was assisted by junior Kayci Krzynowek, who also played with bumps and bruises after landing on her back while trying to take a charge. She had seven points, seven steals and six assists, and was Pappas’ security blanket.
“Kayci is just everything — she does everything,” he said. “She’s pretty much my sound board where I just say, ‘Kayci, go get the ball.’ Kayci bails me out. If I don’t know what to do, I go to Kayci and she’ll bail me out.”
Klein made key 3-pointers (two late in the third quarter to give Manchester a nine-point lead) and Krzynowek ran the offense, but it was the team defense of a squad with only one senior on the roster, along with the Panthers overcoming a Triway height advantage, that impressed Pappas.
“We figured out what to do defensively, and I think that set the tone,” he said. “I was proud of that. We didn’t have a great week of practice, and I kept harping on what we wanted to do. And rebounding, they’re so much bigger than us and we crushed it on the boards. Those were the biggest parts of the game.
“For them to learn how to win this type of game and in this type of atmosphere and pressure is huge.”
Pappas gave a lot of credit defensively to sophomore Brittni Porter, who held her own and finished with four rebounds. She also scored seven points.
Junior Karley Dougherty was Manchester’s second-leading scorer with 16 points and had seven rebounds.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.