Congratulations to the Manhattan High School girls basketball team — players, coaches, trainers, everyone. They did something over the weekend that no other MHS girls basketball team has done: they won the state championship.
To say they did it in thrilling fashion understates the tension that built in Wichita’s Koch Arena and that local fans watching on cable channel 20 or listening on the radio felt in the closing minutes before Manhattan prevailed 44-42 over a gritty Derby team.
Kennedy Wilson, a senior, scored the winning basket — a layup off of a pinpoint pass from Haleigh Harper, a sophomore, with 11 seconds left in the game. “I was just praying that the ball would go into the basket,” a jubilant — and relieved — Kennedy Wilson said after the game. Prayer answered.
The winning score came on one of the few occasions the Indians were able to break Derby’s smothering press in the fourth quarter, a period in which Derby, 20-5, erased every last bit of Manhattan’s 18-point lead. That lead had seemed insurmountable, but Derby overcame it.
What matters in the end, of course, is that Manhattan won. And it did so with two starters, Chrissy Carr, a junior, and Kia Wilson, a sophomore, having fouled out battling Derby’s 6-6 center Kennedy Brown under the basket.
All season the Indians, who finished 24-1, were one of the state’s dominant teams. In the tournament’s semifinals, they avenged their only loss — to Olathe South — in another nail-biter, 47-44.
The championship game victory was a genuine team accomplishment, reflected in the fact that 10 girls played in it. The leading scorers for MHS Saturday were Chrissy Carr with 14 and Gigi McAtee, a senior, with 10. But every girl who played, as well as those who didn’t, share in that triumph and in the most successful season any Manhattan High girls basketball team has ever had.
We would be remiss in not tipping our cap to head coach Scott Mall. A low-key individual, he showered praise on his players for their talents, teamwork and commitment. He’s a good judge of those traits, having coached girls basketball at MHS since before any of this year’s players were born. He was a volunteer assistant 26 years ago when MHS finished second to Seaman in the championship game. Under his guidance, this year’s team set the bar a notch higher.