Don Kent has seen Chris Manhertz plenty of times over the last two years to formulate an educated opinion on the Cardinal Spellman forward.
“Chris is legit,” the longtime McClancy boys’ basketball coach said. “He’s a force.”
In the CHSAA ‘A’ Manhertz is a man-child. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, the junior is nearly unstoppable in the paint. He grabs every rebound off the glass and he’s a ferocious shot blocker.
“When the ball goes up and they miss, we know we’re getting the rebound because he’s a monster,” longtime Spellman coach Fred Opper said. “He had a very good game. In the limited time he played tonight he was terrific. But we need him in there.”
But on the bench, Manhertz is as effective as the managers keeping the book. And for much of McClancy’s 58-50, road victory Thursday afternoon, that’s just where the big man was, saddled with foul trouble.
“I said we’ve got to double down on him, put a body on him,” Kent told his team about Manhertz. “If he’s in your area, don’t even attempt for the rebound, just lean on him. … He’s a good player and he’s going to be around next year, too.”
Without Manhertz, Cardinal Spellman (2-7, 0-5 A-Central) is a completely different team, especially since the Falcons are also without captain Damir Radzepagic, who has an ACL injury.
“We become small,” Opper said. “We become weak inside.”
When Manhertz was in the game, McClancy (10-2, 6-2 A-South) was without an answer. He had 20 points, 15 rebounds and a few huge blocks, especially at the end of the first half.
But 27 seconds into the third quarter Manhertz lowered his shoulder into a Crusaders’ defender and was called for an offensive foul. Opper had no choice but to put the big man on the bench.
Led by Keith Brooks, who scored a team-high 17 points, and Dominic Murray (16 points), McClancy capitalized. The Falcons were careless with the ball and the Crusaders’ 2-1-2 press led to layups in transition. McClancy went on an 11-0 run late in the third quarter and took a 42-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We were trying to press to pick the pace up, but they broke it very easily in the beginning,” Brooks said. “We were really trying to cause havoc, create some quick turnovers so we can run up and down the court.”
Manhertz, who was again benched with his fourth foul on a reach-in midway through the third quarter, returned to the court in the fourth quarter and immediately changed the game. He scored nine of his team’s 15 points and Spellman cut its deficit to five, 55-50, with 1:07 left in regulation.
But McClancy went 3-of-4 from the foul line in the final 41.9 seconds for its fourth straight win since a 32-point loss to defending Class A intersectional champion Bishop Ford.
“It shows that everybody on this team takes it personal when we lose,” Brooks said. “We want to show everybody that we can play with the top teams.”
McClancy opened the season with a 31-point home loss to powerhouse Iona Prep, but responded by winning the next five, including capturing the Bro. Arnold Memorial tournament title.
“Like a boxer, you have to pick yourself up,” Kent said. “You can’t sulk, you can’t hang your head. There’s 17 league games and we’ve got to bounce back. So far, they’ve responded.”