MHS’ Mall, Carr earn Flint Hills coach, player of the year

By Maria McIlwain

When Chrissy Carr moved from Minnetonka, Minnesota, over the summer, she figured she would have somewhat of an impact on the already-deep Manhattan girls basketball team. Maybe average nine or 10 points per game and fill out the stat sheet in rebounding, assists and steals.

She did a lot more than that. Carr, this year’s All-Flint Hills player of the year, had a stellar first season at Manhattan. She led the Indians in scoring with 14.6 points per game, recording 366 on the year. She was also second on the team in rebounding (4.2 rpg) and assists with 57 and third in steals with 44. She said this was the first year she had averaged more than 10 points per game and was able to expand other aspects of her game, too. She also helped Manhattan to its first-ever girls basketball state title, which she said was a team effort.

“If you deny one player, it opens up a gate for another person,” Carr, a junior shooting guard said. “Some nights they’ll be denying Kia (Wilson) and some nights, they’ll be denying Gigi (McAtee), and Garrin (Williams) can step up, too. We had a lot of backup players that were good, too … people refer to games as throwing punches, and I feel like ours was the punches that never really ended because we had so many deep players.”

Being the scorer on the team has its downsides, though. “Every night, people try to give you their best defense,” Carr said. “They give you their best defense, and one thing my parents told me was, ‘You’ve got to stay composed.’ It’s really hard to stay composed when people are in your face and extra physical and denying you. It’s hard to not force things, and at times, I would force things and Coach (Scott) Mall would be like, ‘Hey let the game come to you.’

That really helped me a lot in noticing what’s a good shot and what’s a bad shot. It’s was kind of just hard because every night, people were gunning for me.” Carr said she had good leadership from Mall. “I really was shocked with the way I was scoring the ball,” she said. “I feel like Coach Mall did a really good job of helping me expand my game. Like teaching me how to post up, helping me notice when I can get my shot off for the 3, when I should be getting to the rim. He really helped me notice when I should get my shot off through the offense and how to work with the team and how to work with what they’ve been building since they were eighth or ninth graders.”

Mall, this year’s All-Flint Hills coach of the year, has been a coaching fixture at Manhattan since 1992. He feels one of his main jobs as a head coach is to keep the team focused throughout the season. He said the team set the goal of a state title before the season started and did a good job of staying focused on it.

“It’s nice to see this group do all the right things, and it worked out for them,” he said.

Carr said Mall always kept them focused and his ability to stay composed makes him special as a coach.

“He definitely knows how to get his point across because sometimes in the locker room, he’ll yell for a little bit, but then he’ll be like ‘OK, we’re fine, we got it, we’re good,’” she said. “I really think he can’t stay mad for a long time … he always gave motivational words to lift us up.”

He also thinks it’s important to keep the team calm.

“They’re going to get excited, and that’s great, you want them to get excited, but I think that’s the job of the head coach to say, ‘OK, what can we do next?’” Mall said.

Mall also said each previous team built up to this year. He felt the assistant coaches, Will Spradling and Kim McAtee, complemented each other well.

“These girls have four years in high school, and you want to make it as rewarding an experience as possible,” Mall said.

Mall also thought trials like losing to Olathe South in the Mid-America Classic and the close game with Washburn Rural prepare the Indians (24-1) for a close state championship game with Derby. The Panthers came back from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game, but Kennedy Wilson hit a late layup to pull out the win.

“We really stressed how that is going to help us in the future, and it really did,” Mall said.

Carr credited her teammates like McAtee, a senior point guard, with setting her up for success.

“(McAtee’s) passing ability and her ability to see the court and to know when to drive, I feel like that complemented me really well,” she said. “As a shooter, you love people who are able to drive the ball and know where to pass and when to pass and to make the right play.”

Mall said Carr is a good teammate, too.

“She worked hard,” he said. “She’s really good at complementing her teammates. She’s a very good passer.

She did a good job of that on the open floor.”

He said Carr fit right in with the team, even though she came to Manhattan right before the school year started. Carr formed close bonds with McAtee, junior forward Josie Hilgers and sophomore Chloe Colston. “Everyone’s so goofy on our team, and we just love to laugh,” Carr said. “It’s hard to create memories when everything is just such a laughing moment.”

Moving isn’t something new to Carr, who played at Eden Prairie until transferring to Minnetonka for her sophomore year. The move was unexpected, and she was sad at first, but she’s made friends off the court with teammates like Hilgers and Megan Worthington.

“I have my basketball friends, and I have my friends outside of school,” Carr said. “I like to talk about basketball, but there’s also a part where I just want to be able to talk gossip and what’s going on. It’s good to have friends outside of basketball, too, that you can talk too and do your own thing with. And I’m lucky enough to have Josie as that person who’s both.” Outside of basketball, she enjoys baking, especially cupcakes, and scary movies, arts and crafts and shopping. She hopes to one day major in a culinary field and become a baker. She tries something different every week with cupcakes and even made cupcakes for her team once. Next year, Mall thinks Carr will be able to step into a more vocal role, and Carr thinks, like this year, several of her teammates will step up.

“I feel like next year, we’re going to be a whole different team because we’re going to have girls who can handle, multiple girls who can shoot the ball, multiple girls who can finish inside,” she said. “It’s going to be just as hard, if not harder, to guard next year.”

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