KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Brittany Chambers came to Manhattan as a scorer — shoot first, check with the coach later — and she'll definitely leave as one.
Chambers finished her career at tiny Jordan High (Minn.) as the school's career scoring leader with 2,828 points. She once went Carmelo on a Minnesota Class 2A semifinal opponent and scored 47 points, setting a state record.
Chambers, a 5-foot-8 Kansas State sophomore guard, simply has the scorer's mentality. So why was her biggest play during K-State's survival win over Iowa State in the Big 12 women's quarterfinals a pass?
Late in its Wednesday match, K-State needed to cushion its 54-51 advantage. With the shot clock expiring, the ball inevitably found the hands of the team's top scorer. Chambers surged with her first step and attacked the rim. She averages a team-best 16.3 points per game and has made 83 three-pointers, so it would have been predictable for Chambers to attempt the layup. However, she recognized the help defender coming her way and dished to open teammate Jalana Childs.
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Easy two points. K-State (21-9) advances to the semifinals, where it will meet No. 1 seed Baylor at noon today.
"I think last year, I didn't fully understand. I just kind of went with things. I just kind of relied on what I've always known," Chambers said. "But I feel like this year, I understand concepts a lot better and understanding right timing, when to get the ball into the post, when to push it."
Chambers, the scorer, has learned new tricks.
The transition from a score-first freshman point guard to the sophomore who involves her teammates has made Chambers one of the toughest covers in the league.
"This year, there hasn't been a team we'd line up against that hasn't said, 'You better be on Brittany Chambers or you die,'?" coach Deb Patterson said with a smile.
Chambers admits that growing up in Southern Minnesota — 5,418 residents live in her hometown — meant little competition on the hardwood.
"I think the tallest kid that guarded me was 5-2," she said.
So after Chambers chose K-State over a volleyball scholarship at Wisconsin, she realized she needed to step up her game. With instruction from assistant coach Kamie Ethridge, Chambers reworked her shooting stroke. And, over time, Chambers has focused her offensive intensity.
Whether it's taking over when Childs goes down against Texas A&M and scoring 35 points in the upset win or distributing her third assist in a pivotal moment of a Big 12 women's tournament game, Chambers has shown maturity with her killer instinct.
"A year ago, she might not have made that play (to Childs). She might not have understood to read that second defender, she might have continued to make the play off the layup," Patterson said. "She's a very fiery competitor. She just instinctively wants responsibility and is comfortable with the responsibility of making a play, and I think great players instinctively do that."
Childs update — Childs, who suffered a hip flexor sprain during K-State's win over Texas A&M on March 3, has played in the team's two wins since the injury. However, on Thursday, Patterson said she would be surprised if Childs plays today against Baylor.
"But again, we've proved that we can win at a very high level with or without Jalana on the floor," Childs said. "Certainly, we'd love to have her there but if not, we'll just go about finding a way to be who we are and compete."