Top-ranked Sterling girls head back to state

Published: Mar. 5, 2022 at 9:44 PM CST
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SUBLETTE, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - As reigning state champions, the target on their back has been a large one this season. But the Sterling girls have passed every test thus far, including wins against Cheney, Central Plains, and Southeast of Saline. Saturday night in Sublette, the Black Bears showed their dominance in a 74-43 win against seventh-ranked Elkhart to claim another 2A substate title.

“I thought we did a great job trying to find some mismatches,” said Sterling coach Jill Rowland. “They’re a good ball club, and honestly, they mirror us a little bit. They’re a little more single post and I thought we have to go there. We have to hit our double posts. We had some mismatches in there.”

Elkhart stayed in the game early. Six-foot senior Jenni Forbes swished a three for an 8-7 score, then senior Maycee Eagan went baseline for a 9-8 Elkhart lead. After scoring 26 points in Thursday’s semifinal win against Ellinwood, Forbes put up eight points in the first quarter.

But the Black Bears figured things out. Posts Sadie Beagley and Lily Gray combined for 12 points in the first quarter to put Sterling ahead 18-16. Play moved outside early in the second as senior Bennie Horsch popped a pair of quick threes. With Forbes heading to the bench with three fouls, the Sterling lead blossomed.

“That’s a game changer because she was killing us,” Rowland said. “She was doing a great job. She was in foul trouble and we were going right at her.”

In all, the Black Bears put up 31 points in the second quarter alone en route to a 49-31 halftime lead. Senior Kali Briar provided the exclamation point with a 3-pointer at the buzzer. That momentum carried over into the third quarter with 22 more points in that frame. The result was a running clock for the fourth quarter.

“We have a nice ball team,” said Rowland. “We have trouble on our rebounding effort at times. That’s been our focus the last couple weeks and we’ve improved on that. Same with defending 3-point shooters. Tonight I thought we stepped up. Those are some improvements we’ve made late in the season and I’m proud of their effort.”

Forbes grabbed 12 rebounds in Thursday’s win against Ellinwood but was held to just three rebounds and 11 points against Sterling. Senior Kamryn Richardson paced the Wildcats with 13 points and nine rebounds, and Eagan scored seven points. Elkhart ends its season at 20-3.

Black Bear senior Makenna Linden scored all of her game-high 18 points in the middle quarters. The 6-4 freshman Gray added 16 points in the first three quarters, and Beagley scored her 16 points in the first three periods. Horsch added 10 points and eight boards, and Briar finished with eight points.

Sterling puts its perfect 23-0 record on the line in hopes of a repeat title next week in Manhattan.

“The last three games you survive and advance,” said Rowland. “You take it one game at a time. There are going to be eight really good teams there. Yes, we all want to do it all but you can’t look at the end result. It’s about a process. We go back to work, we figure out we play, and we chip away in the first quarter and see what we can do.

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