DERBY — Youth and inexperience may give the Manhattan High girls’ coach Scott Mall some headaches at some point this season, but Friday night’s 60-36 season-opening win was not one of those times.
The Indians opened up a double-digit lead before halftime and the game never got closer than nine the rest of the way as Mall’s squad closed out the game efficiently with strong defense and transition offense.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, but we have a lot of things to work on,” Mall said. “There were times when we looked a little shaky but the girls really responded. We made some big runs on offense when we needed to and got some good stops on defense everytime they came back on us.
“The girls did a good job of adjusting and we finished the game very well.”
Senior point guard Elayna Spilker helped build the first-half lead with a 14-point performance in the first two quarters on 6-of-8 shooting. She would finish with 20 points.
“She did a great job,” Mall said. “She did most of our offensive work in the first half between driving to the basket and finishing and hitting some outside shots. In the second half they worked a little different on her to keep her from doing that and some of the other girls got a chance to step up. That was good for us to figure out where we’re at and who can do what.”
Also in double figures for Manhattan was junior Darby Price with 12 points. Par McNair finished with eight points but was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
For Derby, the jumpshots weren’t falling as the Indian defense keyed in on do-it-all guard Madi Greenwood. She ended the night as the leading scorer for Derby, but was just 5-of-30 from the floor, taking more than half of her team’s shots.
“She had a very off night,” Derby coach Caleb Smith said of Greenwood. “She played really well in all aspects of the game, except for shooting. I expect her to come back and have more success down the road.”
Mall said Greenwood proved to be a difficult matchup for all of his guards.
“She was tough,” he said. “She caused us some problems and got us in foul trouble. We really found some things defensively we need to work on to stop that.”
After the first four minutes of the game, Manhattan took control, going on an 9-0 run in the first quarter while building up a 12-point halftime lead.
Even then, the Panthers didn’t quit.
They cut it to nine toward the end of the third quarter, but ran out of gas, allowing Manhattan to outscore them 19-6 in the fourth to put things away.
Mall said Derby’s size, featuring 6-foot-2 Alyxis Bowen, disrupted his team’s game plan from the start. When Bowen fouled out in the fourth, Derby had only Greenwood left in its arsenal.
Smith, a young coach, was complimentary of the way Manhattan High has built its program.
“Coach has a great team, they’re very well coached and they have a system in place,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to build up here. We gave them some competition tonight, but need to work to get to that level.”
The Indians open a three-game homestand next week with Word of Life on Tuesday at 6 p.m.