When Sterling High’s girls beat Central Plains earlier this season, Oiler coach Pat Stiles figured he’d get a second chance to challenge the Black Bears.
Top-seeded Central Plains and second-seeded Sterling rolled to easy wins Friday to secure a rematch Saturday night in the Sterling Class 2A basketball substate.
The winner gets a berth in the Class 2A State Tournament at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.
Central Plains rolled past Pratt-Skyline 56-24 and Sterling dominated Kiowa County 60-26 in Friday’s semifinals.
Sterling (19-3) beat the Oilers 66-56 when the teams met in the Hilltop Hoops Classic at Great Bend.
The first game was tied 44-44 when Sterling scored 20 points in the fourth period. Sterling’s Andi Dowell scored 23 points and Chelsey Riffel added 18 points. Jennifer Hitschmann paced the Oilers with 15 points.
“The team that wins the substate will be competitive at the Class 2A state tournament,” Stiles said. “We get another shot at Sterling. They are a great team. Both teams play pretty solid defensively. They’ve got good shooting guards and good players inside. The first time we lost to St. John, we beat them the second time so we know we can beat a team the second time.”
Sterling handled Central Plains’ pressure defense in the first meeting and freshman point guard Kylah Comley is healthy after missing some games during the season.
The Oilers featured a typically balanced offensive game against Skyline. Freshman Taylor Rolfs scored 15 points and Hitschmann scored 14 points and Janae Hekele added 11 points.
“Our balance has been our theme this year,” Stiles said. “We get a different girl stepping up every game. This is a team that plays well together.”
The Oilers made 25 of 59 field goals and scored several easy baskets off 30 Thunderbird turnovers.
“We got into a little more intense and started playing pressuring the ball more,” Stiles said. “We got into our defensive game after the first quarter.”
Pratt-Skyline (14-8) was paced by point guard Kaitlyn Stark with 13 points, plus a solid ballhandling game. Stark made a trio of 3-pointers and converted 4 of 6 shots. Her teammates made 4 of 23 field goals.
“We ran into a defensive buzzsaw,” said Skyline coach Chuck Young. “They’ve got some good athletes with a lot of quickness. Once we started making turnovers, we lost our confidence. That’s really a good Central Plains team.”
Central Plains (20-2) qualified for the Class 2A state tournament last year and placed fourth after beating Oakley and losing to Olpe and Republic County. It’s the second season for Central Plains High School after Claflin and Quivira Heights consolidated.
Skyline’s Stark played superbly in the first quarter with five points and solid ballhandling as the Thunderbirds trailed 6-5. But the Oilers’ pressure eventually took its toll by halftime.
The Oilers played flawlessly offensively and defensively and outscored the Thunderbirds 27-4 to build a 29-9 lead right before halftime.
The Oilers’ effective fullcourt and halfcourt traps forced 14 first-half turnovers. Central Plains mixed transition baskets with effective drives to the basket in its halfcourt offense.
As usual, the Oilers were well balanced with Hekele leading the way with eight points. Rolfs scored seven points and Katie Hipp and Breanna Holmes with six apiece.
Sterling 60, Kiowa County 26 – Chelsey Riffel scored 13 points and Sydney Wilson added 11 points off the bench to spark Sterling’s girls past Kiowa County. Andi Dowell scored nine points and Aubree Nuest added eight points.
Sterling led 20-3 after one period and 36-10 at halftime behind effective pressure defense.
Kiowa County (11-10) was paced by Heather Melton and Riann Heft with five points apiece.