Central Plains girls advance to seventh-straight title game Saturday
GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Covid-19 prevented the Lady Oilers from seven-straight state titles a year ago. But the Lady Oilers advanced to their eighth-straight state semifinals Monday, this time taking on the rare role as underdog against unbeaten Golden Plains. Central Plains led by as many as 16 points and advanced to Saturday’s Class 1A, Div. II title game with a 50-39 win over the Bulldogs.
“We survive and advance,” said Lady Oiler coach Pat Stiles. “It doesn’t matter how ugly it is or how pretty it is as long as you advance to the next round.”
For a good 18 minutes, it was ugly by Lady Oiler standards. Golden Plains, playing as the No. 1 seed, trailed just 19-16 at the half and cut the deficit to 25-24 early in the third quarter on a 3-pointer from sophomore Breanna Rath.
The Lady Bulldogs chucked up 27 3-point attempts in the game, connecting on six. Senior Brooke Stoll caught fire in the second quarter to finish the first half 4 for 10 from the outside. Rath made two of her four long-distance tries in the contest. The misses led to eight offensive rebounds.
“I knew Stoll was a good shooter,” Stiles said. “Rath, I didn’t know she’d shoot as well as she did. They’re a good team. They’re undefeated. I’ve never seen a team crash the offensive glass as hard as they did. They were really well-coached.”
Central Plains earned a home game for Monday’s state quarterfinal game. Thursday’s game took place just a few miles down the road at Barton Community College, and that’s where the Lady Oilers will end their season with Saturday’s championship game.
“It’s awesome,” said Lady Oiler senior Jennah Jeffrey. “It’s like we have a home court advantage almost. We’re so used to playing on this court.”
Jeffrey was huge in the pivotal third quarter. After Rath’s basket cut the lead to 25-24, Jeffrey turned an offensive board into a pair of free throws. She added a drive, two more free throws, and a big 3-pointer to cap an 11-2 run in less than three minutes. Jeffrey scored nine points in the frame as the Lady Oilers pulled ahead 41-30.
“At halftime in the locker room we just talked,” she said. “Things were kind of rough and not going our way. We just said we’re going to build each other up. We’re going to get excited for every single thing we do and just lift each other up.”
Junior Kassidy Nixon battled foul trouble early but still managed nine points and a game-high 11 rebounds to go with four assists. She scored early in the fourth, then sophomore Brynna Hammeke swished a three for a 46-30 score with 5:10 remaining.
Golden Plains made one final run with a Stoll jumper to cut the gap to 50-39 with 52 seconds remaining. The Lady Bulldogs picked up a turnover seconds later but missed on a 3-pointer to stay in the game.
Stoll hit a pair of threes and Hammeke scored half of Central Plains’ eight points as the teams battled to an 8-8 tie after one quarter. Stoll hit two more threes in the second to end the half with 12 of her team’s 16 points. Hammeke finished the first half with 11 of the 19 Lady Oiler points.
Stoll finished with 14 points to lead the Lady Bulldogs. Senior Ashley Stoll picked up several key rebounds and got her double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. Rath added six points for Golden Plains, which ends its season at 24-1.
Hammeke paced the Lady Oilers with 25 points. Nixon put together her big performance, and Jeffrey finished with nine points.
Central Plains moves to 21-3 overall heading into Saturday’s title game. Last year’s seniors were denied a fourth state title because of the pandemic. Coach Stiles is pleased this year’s seniors will have the opportunity to close out their careers in a title game.
“Our seniors learned how to win from the older girls,” he said. “They want to show they can play, too. They sat behind a really good squad for three years, just getting spot play. Now it’s their turn and they’re playing well.”
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