The stakes keep getting higher for the Manhattan girls basketball team, but the result has been largely the same for the Indians.
Manhattan (21-1, 13-0 Centennial League) beat Lawrence Free State (17-5), 62-43, in the sub-state final.
“Our girls really came out to play,” head coach Scott Mall said. “They didn’t hit shots, but I thought, defensively, we did a great job of not giving them the shots they wanted. We played their individual girls like we wanted to and kind of took away some of the things they wanted. And offensively, we just converted things. We were aggressive to the basket, we hit some shots, but you could tell, the girls really took care of business and really set the tone for the rest of the ballgame.”
Chrissy Carr led the Indians with 16 points, while Haleigh Harper posted a season-high 12 points and Gigi McAtee added 11. Cameryn Thomas led all scorers, posting 17 points for the Firebirds and Caely Kesten also recorded double figures, finishing with 11.
“(Harper) gave a lot of energy,” Mall said. “We ask a lot of her and Garrin (Williams). Their point guard is really good at breaking things down and Haleigh and Garrin did a great job of keeping her from getting in and getting stuff to happen. And offensively, she hit a shot, she took the ball to the basket. It’s great to have a girl like Haleigh coming off the bench.”
Mall was also proud of how Kennedy and Kia Wilson guarded Free State’s much smaller guards.
“I thought they did a super job,” Mall said. “Kia was on No. 10 Thomas a lot and really did a good job of keeping her away from the basket. A lot of times, Kennedy had to step out and get her hand on a 3-point shooter, which they normally don’t have to do, and I thought they did an outstanding job.”
The Indians were dominant through the opening quarter, putting 21 points on the board before the Firebirds answered with less than a minute remaining in the period. They only made two buckets during the first eight minutes
During the opening quarter, Harper also hit her first 3-pointer of the season.
“It was good, I wouldn’t have it obviously if I didn’t the assist from my teammates, so I just give it all to them,” the sophomore said.
Lawrence Free State switched to a zone defense and picked up as the second quarter progressed and went into halftime on a 10-1 run. The Firebirds outscored the Indians, 16-11, during the frame, and Thomas recorded eight points.
“We kind of got off a little bit late in the second quarter and a couple times in the third when we were switching and didn’t switch right,” Mall said. “Thomas really overpowered us. Early, we had forward guarding her … but when we went with the smaller lineup, one of our guards was guarding her and she just did a good job of overpowering us to the basket.”
Both teams battled through the second half, but Manhattan’s lead hovered around 20. The Firebirds never got closer than 17. Carr and Harper reached double figures for the Indians while Kesten put together a solid period for Free State.
Both teams traded buckets to open the fourth quarter and were deliberate with the ball as time ticked off the clock.
With the win, Manhattan heads to the state tournament in Wichita for the first time since 2011. The Indians will return to action on Thursday.
“They’re focused, they’re prepared, they have their goals in mind, and we’re ready to go get them,” Mall said.