Central Plains girls make it eight-straight titles

Updated: Mar. 12, 2022 at 9:31 PM CST
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GREAT BEND, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The Lady Oilers have sprinted to many of their first seven state titles. Saturday was more of a limp. Battling various health issues, Central Plains needed an 11-0 run in to open the fourth quarter to get by unbeaten Golden Plains 50-38 for the Class 1A, Div. II title. The Lady Oilers have now won eight-straight state championships.

“They’re tough,” said CPHS coach Pat Stiles. “Madison McGuire sprains an ankle and fights through it. (Senior Kassidy Nixon) is puking into a basket. (Junior Brynna Hammeke) has been fighting a back injury all year and was exhausted. They’re just warriors. But, man, (Golden Plains) is about the best defensive team we’ve seen.”

Golden Plains has not lost a regular-season game in four years but was knocked out in the state semifinals last year by Central Plains. Saturday the Bulldogs gained a 33-31 edge in the final minute of the third on a 3-pointer from senior Kassie Miller. Lady Oiler senior Madison McGuire, who played against Central Plains in last year’s state finale, hit a jumper to even the score at 33 with a quarter to play.

Central Plains’ offensive woes all but disappeared early in the fourth. Nixon put back her own miss, then found McGuire for a jumper. A Nixon steal led to free throws from McGuire, then Hammeke got in the mix with a runner and a steal and layup to cap an 11-0 run in less than three minutes.

“After our last timeout in the fourth quarter we knew we had to finish it right there,” Nixon said. “It was the last game we were ever going to play so we had to finish it.”

Golden Plains continued to battle, getting a drive from Miller, then three free throws from the senior. Then sophomore Reese McGuire, who also played for Cunningham in last year’s title game, all but ended things with a 3-pointer. That shot put the Lady Oilers ahead 49-38 with 2:35 to play.

“We just said be patient and try to get it side to side,” Stiles said. “We finally got to the rim and scored. Reese hit a big three. We didn’t want her shooting that but she has ice in her veins.”

Early on Central Plains looked to be on track with a quick spin move and layup from Hammeke and a trey from junior Kyla Metro for a quick 5-0 lead. Metro saved the Lady Oilers with a team-high 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting on the night.

“Kyla had a stretch where she was really struggling,” said Stiles. “She comes in every evening and shoots. What a time for it to click.”

Central Plains stretched the lead to 18-9 midway through the second. Lady Bulldog senior Carli Nieman ended the run with a putback, then Miller added a putback and foul to cut the gap to 18-16. Just before the half, junior Breanna Rath swished a three to give Golden Plains its first lead and all the momentum at the half with a 19-18 edge.

It was a battle from there with neither side leading by more than three points in the third quarter. Miller scored seven points in the frame for Golden Plains, and Metro and Hammeke each hit threes for Central Plains.

Miller finished with a game-high 19 points for Golden Plains, making eight of her nine free throw attempts. Rath added nine points, Jordyn Fleckenstein scored six points, and Nieman finished with four points and seven rebounds.

Metro paced the Lady Oilers with 15 points. Nixon, playing in the final game of her decorated career, added eight points, 10 rebounds, seven steals, and seven assists. Hammeke and Madison McGuire each scored 11 points, and Reese McGuire scored the other five points.

Central Plains ends another championship run at 25-1 overall. Its lone loss came against a Sterling team that finished the year at 26-0 for a second-straight Class 2A title.

Saturday’s title game was all the more special for Coach Stiles as daughter, Jackie, was on hand to deliver the game ball and medals. Jackie Stiles, the state’s all-time leading scorer and a former NCAA record holder, was part of KSHSAA’s celebration of 50 years of Title IX to bring girls’ sports to life.

“I can’t believe they picked me,” Jackie said. “I’m so honored and humbled that they did, then that they allowed me to come to this state tournament venue. Wow, even the men’s championship game was unbelievable. It was a lot of great basketball and an incredible atmosphere. It was a lot of fun.”

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