Manchester girls basketball team advances to regional title game
PETERSBURG -- Adrian Madison hit back-to-back 3-pointers and suddenly the Manchester High School girls basketball team's seemingly comfortable seven-point lead was down to just one with one minute, 33 seconds left in a Class C regional semifinal at Summerfield High School.
Manchester coach Cori Kastel decided to put the ball -- and the game -- in the hands of junior McKenna Erkfritz, and Madison decided to put her at the free-throw line.
Erkfritz delivered in crunch time, making all four of her attempts in the final minute to seal the 43-38 win.
“McKenna was just stellar from the free-throw line,” Kastel said. “That’s who I want at the free-throw line, my three-year varsity starter. She looked at me and kind of waved like ‘I’m all right.’”
Erkfritz was 6-of-8 from the line. Manchester (22-2) made all but one of its nine free throws in the second half after going just 4-of-9 (44.4 percent) in the first.
“I’ll take that,” said Kastel. “Especially since that’s kind of been our weakest part of the game.”
Erkfritz and Jessie Manders scored all 25 of Manchester's second half points as the Flying Dutch overcame a 22-18 halftime deficit. Erkfritz led all scorers with 20 points, Manders, a freshman, scored 16, including 13 in the second half.
“You’ve got to have that calm, you’ve got to have that confidence, and Jessie has that,” Kastel said. “Jessie is just a freshman, but the kid is smart.”
After turning the ball over 12 times in the first two quarters, Manchester played a more composed game after the half.
“They’re a fast-paced team and we’re not usually like that. We like to slow the ball up. We got caught playing their game instead of ours and once we realized that, we slowed it down,” Erkfritz said. “We realized that we weren’t playing our best and we weren’t really taking care of the ball very well.”
After tying the game 25-25 with 5:52 left in the third quarter, Madison’s Kayela Gilbert hit a 3-pointer seconds later to retake the lead. From there, Manchester would not surrender a point for more than eight minutes.
“We tried to mix up, we came out and played a man-to-man, then we switched to a zone,” Kastel said.
During that time the Lady Dutch scored 12 unanswered points and had stretched the lead to 37-30 with 4:40 left in the game.
But Madison (22-2) would not go away hitting back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to make the game 37-36.
Fortunately for Manchester, Erkfritz and Manders were able to make the clutch free throws when their team needed it.
“Nobody wanted to lose this game; we weren’t ready for the season to be over,” Kastel said.
Brittney Benschoter had 11 points to lead the Trojans while Taylor Gonzales had seven points.
Manchester's share of a Cascades Conference title this season was the first in school history. Thursday (6 p.m., Summerfield High School), the Dutch will try to add a regional championship to their history-making season. They will face Riverview Gabriel Richard (17-4), which defeated Britton-Deerfield, 67-36, on Tuesday.
“This has been a great season. We’ve made history so far with winning our first conference championship and now we need to win our regional championship,” Kastel said. "We’re on a mission.”
Contact Matt Durr at email@example.com.