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Sterling girls take down Central Plains in battle of No. 1s

Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 11:22 PM CST
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CLAFLIN, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The Central Plains girls have dominated the Class 1A ranks in recent seasons as part of seven-straight state championships. But once upon the time the Lady Oilers were a Class 2A team. The last team to beat Central Plains in the postseason: Sterling back in 2013.

Last year the Lady Black Bears were one of just three teams to beat the Oilers. Sterling went on to win the Class 2A title, and Central Plains took the 1A, Div. II crown. Tuesday the teams once again clashed, each holding the No. 1 ranking in their respective classification. Sterling never trailed in a 51-39 win.

“This is fun to be able to come here,” said Sterling coach Jill Rowland. “We have the utmost respect for the Oilers and there’s a reason for that. They’re well-coached, they’re athletic, they’re tough the beat. It’s a big night for the Black Bears and we do not take it for granted.”

After a 1-1 tie early on, Sterling senior Bennie Horsch opened with the first field goal on a drive two minutes in. Senior Kali Briar connected on a three and the lead grew to 6-1.

The Lady Oilers battled back with a trey from junior Brynna Hammeke and a basket from senior Kassidy Nixon off her own miss. Makenna Linden for Sterling and Reese McGuire for Central Plains traded threes and the Black Bears led 13-11 after one quarter.

Central Plains once more tied the game at 13 on a slash and assist from McGuire to Nixon. Then Sterling began to pull away. Horsch connected on a triple in what turned into a 11-point quarter from the senior. Briar added a trey and Sterling held a 30-23 lead at the half.

The Lady Oilers have thrived on defense over the past decade. Tuesday that muted guard play on the outside so Rowland looked inside to 6-4 freshman Lily Gray and 5-9 senior Sadie Beagley. The duo combined for six of Sterling’s 11 points in the third quarter. The result was a 41-33 lead with eight minutes to play.

“We wanted it in the post and we thought that’s where the strength was,” Rowland said. “Kudos to their defense. They got lots of touches. We probably forced a little bit too much into the post. We went to a couple different offenses. We got into some foul trouble with Sadie and Kali, which we don’t typically do. It was a real growth spurt for us. I was pleased to be able to have them on the bench and maintain.

“I was pretty impressed with what an even-keeled game it was. We had a lot of contributors defensively and offensively.”

The Lady Oilers stayed in the game to the finish. Nixon opened the fourth quarter with an assist to McGuire for a 41-35 score. Nearing the midway point, Hammeke found Madison McGuire on an inbounds play for a 45-39 score.

Linden provided some big passes in the win, and her steal and assist to Lacey Farney with a foul all but iced the game with 2:58 remaining. Beagley tacked on a late bucket for insurance and the final points of the evening.

Horsch scored all 18 of her points in the first three quarters and also grabbed 10 rebounds for Sterling. Beagley scored six of her 10 points in the second half, and Linden finished with nine points. Briar had the hot hand early with six points in the first two quarters.

Madison McGuire remained a force in the paint all night for Central Plains to pace the Oilers with 14 points and four rebounds. Hammeke was held well below her average with nine points, and Reese McGuire finished with eight points.

Central Plains suffers its first loss after opening the year with four wins against ranked opponents, including Class 3A Phillipsburg. The Lady Black Bears remain unbeaten with marquee wins against reigning state champions Central Plains and Cheney.

Sterling boys get back on winning side at Central Plains

By Mike Courson

CLAFLIN, Kan. – The Sterling look has changed with the graduation of the state’s best high jumper in Tyus Wilson. Still the Black Bears dominated the boards Tuesday night in Claflin. Sterling controlled the game start to finish, missing a running clock by a single point in a 63-40 win.

The rebounds came early as senior Donivin Hopewell grabbed five of his 11 rebounds in the first few minutes. Sophomore Gabe Riffel proved a force down low with an early putback, and senior Kaz Comley opened up the outside game with an early three. The Black Bears led 14-7 after one quarter.

Riffel and senior Zach Surface traded points for the Black Bears in the second. Surface swished three treys from the same corner spot in under four minutes, and Riffel continued to convert offensive rebounds into points in the paint with eight more points before the half. Sterling pulled ahead 35-16 by the break.

“I don’t necessarily know if they mean to play inside-out, but Zach has been our best perimeter player as far as points,” said Sterling coach Derek Schneider. “Gage is just a beast down low. A lot of the bigger schools we’ve played have doubled down on Gage so we haven’t gotten that inside-out game, but here more recently we’ve gotten more of it. It’s those offensive-rebound kickouts we’ve gotten.”

The Central Plains shooters warmed up in the second half, largely behind Peyton Ryan. The sophomore swished three triples and scored 11 points in the third quarter. He added two more threes in the fourth to finish with a game-high 25 points.

“On film he shoots well,” Schneider said. “We knew we had to stop him. (Central Plains coach Bryce Steiner) does a good job with them. They play hard and get him the ball. We had to run through a ton of screens. He was stroking tonight and hard to guard. We should have played better help-side with comes coming from the backside. He’s definitely the one who makes them go.”

Ryan’s effort was offset by Riffel’s continued presence in the lane. He added 10 more points in the third quarter and scored all 23 of his points in the first three quarters. He missed a double-double by a single rebound.

Sterling’s lead grew to 29 points early in the fourth quarter before treys from Ryan and Evan Stratmann. Stratmann swished a pair of threes on the night for six points, and Devon Bowen scored five points. The Oilers are still looking for their first win of the season.

Surface connected on four triples and scored 16 points for Sterling. Comley finished with eight points, and Carson Gray added six points. Hopewell finished with 11 rebounds to go with his four points. Sterling improves to 5-4 on the season.

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