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Lady Oilers make their way back to state semifinals

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 10:45 PM CST
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CLAFLIN, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The opening of state basketball week must mean the Central Plains girls are playing somewhere. This year, with coronavirus precautions still in place, the Lady Oilers opened the Class 1A, Div. II state tournament at home against St. Paul Monday night. The girls have now won 45 consecutive postseason games after a 51-32 win.

“It’s a good one to end on,” said Lady Oiler senior Lexi Oeser. “The home court, the atmosphere is always amazing here. To get to go play at Barton (Community College), it’s amazing.”

The Lady Oilers were still riding a 136-game win streak and playing in the final four at Dodge City when state tournaments came to an unexpected halt last March. Clear favorites to win it all, Central Plains was denied the opportunity at a seventh-straight state championship.

“That has just motivated me, personally, and our whole team to work even harder, to come in the gym and shoot even more,” Oeser said. “It was definitely heartbreaking and devastating. To have that happen, we just knew this year we were going to prove something and I think we can do it.”

The Lady Oilers never trailed Monday, scoring two minutes in on a pass from senior Jennah Jeffrey to junior Kassidy Nixon. Sophomore Brynna Hammeke added seven points in a 60-second burst, and an offensive board from Monica Short led to a 3-pointer from Jeffrey. The lead was 12-4 after one quarter.

“The motivation clearly showed tonight,” said Hammeke, who did not get to finish her first state tournament a year ago. “We lost what we wanted last year and it definitely helped that we got our home-court advantage and everybody came ready to play tonight.”

Hammeke hit a pair of threes and scored 10 more points in the second quarter to finish with 17 at the half. St. Paul got baskets from juniors Elsie Doherty and Emerald Struthers but fell behind 24-8 by the break.

The Lady Indians opened the second half with a 7-2 run before Hammeke made a free throw. She missed the second but picked up her own rebound and found Jeffrey for the basket. Jeffrey scored six points in the quarter and Oeser swished a late three for a 38-19 score with eight minutes to play.

St. Paul sophomore Josey Harris hit a pair of threes and scored 11 of her 13 points in the final quarter. On the other end, Hammeke capped a big night with 10 more points. She finished with 30 on 9-of-10 shooting from the stripe and 9-of-12 shooting from the field.

“You’re either on or you’re off,” she said. “Tonight I just happened to be on and I think it helped us get the win.”

Junior Claire Bradshaw added seven points for St. Paul, and Doherty finished with six points and five rebounds.

Jeffrey finished with 10 points for Central Plains to go with a handful of assists. Nixon finished with eight points and six rebounds.

St. Paul ends its season at 12-4. Central Plains takes a 20-3 record into the semifinals of the Class 1A, Div. II State Basketball Championships at Barton Community College, just a few miles down the road from Claflin.

“We’re actually really excited,” Hammeke said. “We play at Barton during the summer and we have a feel for the court so we’re pretty excited.”

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