BAYVILLE – Like many of his teammates, Manchester junior Jordan Torney loves to see an opposing defense focus on stopping one of his boys basketball teammates, because the Hawks believe choosing a Manchester player to stop is choosing one’s own poison.

Thursday at Central Regional, the Golden Eagles’ poison came in the form of an early outburst by Torney and balanced finish.

Torney scored 12 of his game-high 19 points during a dominant first-quarter run and the Hawks got at least seven points from six players in a wire-to-wire, 66-54 win over Central (4-4, 3-2) on the road in Class B South.

Manchester junior Jordan Torney (right) scored 19 points while defending Central senior Evan Lang (left), who finished with 12. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Regardless of which player might have most concerned Central going into the game, Torney took the game to the Golden Eagles in transition, both off turnovers and on missed baskets. Manchester (6-2, 5-0) surged ahead, 17-5, by the end of the first quarter and built up a 21-5 lead thanks to a 16-0 run.

“You can’t focus on one guy if you’re the defense because anybody can beat you,” Torney said. “It’s not just one guy or even two guys. It’s all five starters and even guys off the bench.”

All 21 of Manchester’s points during that stretch came either inside the paint or from the free-throw line. Torney converted three transition baskets – including a one-handed dunk off a Central miss – an out-of-bounds play and a driving lay-up out of a half-court set. He even scored twice on one possession, finishing a lay-up as he was fouled and driving for two after classmate Shavar Reynolds grabbed an offensive rebound.

Central never got closer than eight points the rest of the way, but the Golden Eagles did so by blitzing the Hawks with a 10-0 run over the first 2:46 of the third quarter to make it 37-29. Manchester, however, settled into the quarter, began to handle Central’s traps and zone look, and built the lead back to 14 by the end of the quarter.

“Sometimes a big lead is the worst thing for a team, especially a young one like we have,” Manchester coach Ryan Ramsay said. “Guys sometimes get complacent and they lose sight of what got them that lead, but the good thing about our guys is that while they are young, they are also experienced enough to maintain their poise in those situations.”

Reynolds – the team’s leading scorer at 14.6 points per game entering play on Thursday – scored seven points, fewer than all five of the other Hawks to enter the game. The junior guard shot 2-for-6 from the field and also added 12 rebounds and five assists.

Junior Israel Almestica, who along with Torney and Reynolds is one of three returning starters for Manchester, added 13 points and 11 rebounds in the game. Sophomore L.J. Robinson scored 10 points off the bench, senior Robert Planter added nine and junior Nakim Stokes chipped in eight to round out the Manchester scoring.

“We’ve been playing together long enough and we’ve seen every situation,” Torney said. “Our focus is just on execution, no matter what part of the game it is.”

Torney also hounded Central senior guard Evan Lang on the other end of the floor. Lang scored 12 points on 6-for-13 shooting, while Anthony Arneth led Central with 15 points off the bench, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter.

Manchester’s trio of returning juniors all played key roles last year but each has been forced into larger ones this season with the graduation of seniors KaShaun Barnes and Darius Barlow – the team’s leading scorers last year. Instead of changing, each has played like improved versions of himself and that – along with the emergence of Planter and Robinson and the transfer of Stokes to the program from the Baltimore area – has given the Hawks a cohesive group during the early part of the season.

“Having KaShaun on the team last year allowed those guys to just play and be themselves without having to worry about being leaders on the team,” Ramsay said. “Instead they got to be around a guy who was a standout athlete, hard worker and a leader, and after watching it for a year, those guys are stepping up and embracing that challenge together.”

The week continues at home against Jackson Liberty on Friday, followed by a showdown at Lakewood on Tuesday. In recent years, the Hawks and Piners have opened the season against one another. However, this season, both appear poised to enter their first meeting with 6-0 division records heading into a game with major division-title implications.

“Lakewood is always a big game for us, but we can’t think about them right now,” Torney said. “We have to focus on the next game, and that’s Jackson Liberty.”

“We’re so used to opening our season with Lakewood, and we’re usually still getting our legs at that point,” Ramsay said. “It’s nice to get a shot at them a little later, so we’ll see what we can do.”

 

Box Score

Manchetser 66, Central 54

1

2

3

4

F

Manchester (6-2, 5-0)

17

20

12

17

66

Central (4-4, 3-2)

5

14

16

19

54

 

Manchester (66): Nakim Stokes 3 2-3 8, Shavar Reynolds 2 2-2 7, Israel Almestica 6 1-2 13, Robert Planter 4 1-2 9, Jordan Torney 6 6-8 19, L.J. Robinson 4 0-0 10. Totals: 25 12-17 66

Three-pointers: Reynolds, Torney, Robinson 2

Central (54): Max Gruszecki 2 0-0 4, Evan Lang 6 0-0 12, John Forrester 2 0-0 5, Eric Bescript 2 4-4 8, Jaden Rhoden 4 2-2 10, Zach Skeeter 0 0-0 0, Anthony Arneth 7 0-0 15, Nyheem Overton 0 0-0 0, Anthony Holloway 0 0-0 0, Mike Henderson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 6-6 54

Three-pointers: Forrester, Arneth