In Friday’s game against Marion County, Manchester transformed what was a scoring contest between two players into a frenzy from several of the Blue Devils’ contributors.
Manchester defeated Marion County 71-62 in large part due to the efforts of three Blue Devils. After Qua Mahone started the first half matching Marion’s Hykeem Watton point for point, Jalen Leonard and Jah’nile Hill took over the game to seal the deal.
Leonard and Hill were pivotal in a third quarter that saw Manchester (11-10, 8-4) outscore Marion County 25-4, ultimately putting Marion (8-14, 3-11) in a hole it could not escape.
Leonard and Hill each finished with 20 points.
“They understand the game very well,” Manchester head coach George McElroy said of Leonard and Hill. “In clutch situations, those are the guys we want to have the ball in their hands.”
As the Manchester offense ignited with help from Hill and Leonard, the Eagles’ offense fell apart. Watton’s strong first half, which featured 20 points, could not be followed in the second half.
A large part of that was from a change in strategy by the Blue Devils.
“We put our best defensive player on him,” McElroy said. “We moved the guy who handles the ball most of the time, a guy who has a lot of intensity and get at him on defense.”
The move had the desired effect. Watton ended the game with 24 points.
McElroy emphasized how important it was that four Manchester players finished in double digits, explaining that that has to be the case if the Blue Devils are going to continue winning.
“We’re going to have to have more than Jah’nile Hill or Jalen,” McElroy said. “When we put up as many points as we’re putting up now, we have a chance.”
The win put the Blue Devils just above .500, which means the team has a ways to go in order to make a state tournament run. But for McElroy, he and his team understand that Friday’s win was just one step in the right direction.
“We know the situation,” McElroy said. “We’re on the doorstep. We have to go in.”