Indians erase 21-year drought with state trip

By Joel Jellison

Wednesday’s game in the Class 6A state tournament will be 21 years in the making for the Manhattan High girls’ basketball team.

The Indians were armed with Kansas Player of the Year Ann Hollingsworth in the 1990-91 season, when they advanced all the way to the state championship game to lose to Seaman, claiming the second-place title.

MHS coach Scott Mall was a volunteer assistant coach for the Indians that season, and would take over as the head coach a few years later.

When the Indians hit the floor at Koch Arena in Wichita at 8:15 p.m. against Olathe South, he will be making his first appearance as a head coach in the 6A tournament.

But he said he will focus on his own experience at other state tournaments to overcome any nerves.

“You prepare for the game like you do all the time, I’m sure some things will go different,” he said. “I’ve had teams in state before, just not here. I was an assistant coach for a team that made their first-ever trip and won it and I took two boys teams to the 4A tournament as a head coach.”

In comparing the 1990-91 team to the 2011-12 team, Mall said there are a number of similarities and differences. This team obviously doesn’t have the state player of the year like the ‘91 team did in Hollingsworth, who played at Wichita State. Instead, the Indians have been more balanced.

“Results-wise they were similar,” he said. “You can see some similarities between that team and this one, but style-wise they are probably two very different teams.”

When the Indians defeated Washburn Rural last Friday to qualify for the state tournament, they put the heartbreak of previous sub-state losses behind them.

Mall said looking back on the program’s history in sub-state over the 21-year stretch, the team was rarely favored to make it to state.

“So many of those years we were always the underdog and you wondered what we needed to do to pull the upset,” he said. “We had teams that were close, but just couldn’t quite get it done. It seemed like we were almost always losing to a team that went on to place top four at state. We just hit it the right time and had things work out the right way.”

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