The Mid-Continent League tournament always seems to bring out the best of the Ellis Lady Railroaders.
“I think we are all excited about playing in Gross Memorial,” said Lady Railers sophomore Alexcia Deutscher of the venue on the Fort Hays State campus where the MCL plays the semi-final and final round of it mid-season tournament. “I mean who wouldn’t want to play on a college court.”
But before the Ellis ladies could get to Gross Memorial, there was some business to take care of on Monday night, against a tough Oakley Lady Plainsman squad.
“Oakley returns some good girls, they’ve really got some top notch players,” said Ellis head coach Perry Mick. “There a good team, they’ve got a real strong tradition there. In fact when I saw that we were the three six match-up, I thought wow where going to be playing a pretty tough team here.”
The visitors stormed out to the early lead, behind five early first quarter points from Kaelyn Van Eaton. After one quarter, Oakley had a 12-9 lead.
“We weren’t making any shots really and we needed to have fewer turnovers too,” said Deutcher. “Sometimes it takes us a while to get in our groove. Once we take our first quarter break or out first timeout, we will settle down, we pass the ball more and we make our shots.”
One Ellis caught its breath, the ladies also controlled the tempo starting late in the second quarter and carrying over to the third. Deutscher had six of the Lady Railers 15 points in the second quarter as the home team had closed the gap at the half to one point.
In the third quarter the momentum swung all the way to the Lady Railers, who outscored Oakley 16-8.
But the visitors had one more run in them. Behind 8 points from Laura Dennis, the Lady Plainsmen pulled within two. But Ellis got a big steal by Deutscher that resulted in bucket for Kaleigh Soneson and another clutch bucket from Sarah Mick.
One more time the lead would cut to two points by Oakley, thanks to some big free throws from Marlee Rath. But as the Lady Plainsmen were looking for a possible game tying shot Britney Dinkel poked the ball loose and Deutscher swooped it up and was able to take several seconds off the clock before she was fouled. The sophomore, who led the Lady Railers with 14 points, hit one of her two free throws to seal the 49-46 victory.
Dennis led Oakley with 18 points. Rath and Kenzie Hammert added 11 each. Other than Deutscher no other Ellis player was in double figures, though Dinkel had nine points. With the victory the Lady Railers also earn a trip back to Gross Memorial and a spot in the MCL semi-finals.
“Playing well in this tournament is always a plus,” said Mick. “It’s something that’s exciting, it’s something the kids remember, so I just hope we can play well and make a good showing this year.”
As defending tournament champs and winning the title three of the last eight seasons, this group Ellis girls want to continue that tradition of playing well in this tournament.
“I don’t know what it is, I think it’s getting the title of MCL that’s just an awesome feeling for us,” said senior Monica Towns. “We really wanted this win really bad, so it’s great, it felt great.”
Ellis will play Smith Center. The Lady Red needed over time to get past Stockton 53-46. The Lady Railers beat the Smith Center in the MCL title game one season ago, but SC won the rematch in the sub-state finals en route to a state championship.
The other girls semi-final will pair Hill City vs Phillipsburg. The Lady Ringnecks beat Plainville on Monday 62-35. The Lady Panthers took care of Norton 56-26. Phillipsburg and Hill City just met on Friday, with the Lady Panthers getting a 61-46 victory.