DODGE CITY, Kan. Central Plains and St. John have been the two powerhouses in the Class 2A and 1A ranks for nearly a decade. St. John won the 2015 Class 2A title over the Oilers and Central Plains later ended St. John's state-record 63-game win streak.
Central Plains defeated St. John 40-28 to win the 2019 Boys Class 1A State Basketball Championship at United Wireless Arena in Dodge City on Friday, March 8, 2019. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)
Saturday in Dodge City the schools met for a fourth time in the 2018-19 season - this time for a state championship. Central Plains completed the sweep and completed a second-straight perfect season with a 40-28 win. The Oilers take a 53-game win streak into next season.
"We've put in all the hard work," said Central Plains senior Devin Ryan. "Just to see it be fulfilled with back-to-back titles, it's very fulfilling."
St. John senior Mason Osborne opened scoring with a drive 40 seconds in. Ryan answered with a 3-pointer 90 seconds later and the Oilers never trailed again. Ryan swished another trey and senior Alex Hickel knocked down a floater to cap an 8-2 Central Plains run. Tiger junior Marshall Woolf dropped a trey from the corner as the first quarter horn sounded but St. John still trailed 8-7 after one.
The slow pace continued into the second quarter with the exception of Hickel, who scored eight of the 10 Central Plains points in the frame. The Oilers ran off more than a minute of clock to wind out the first half, then senior post Brett Liebl converted on a pair of free throws in the final second for his first points of the night. Central Plains led 18-13 at the break.
"We know each other so well," said Oiler coach Brett Rolfs. "Some people think the offense wasn't worth a darn on either side but that's really not the case. We know each other so well so you're just going to have longer possessions."
Hickel scored again early in the third quarter to bump the lead to nine points. Osborne responded with a three and take to the rim to get the Tigers back within four. A trey from Hickel and hook shot from Liebl inside gave the Oilers a 27-20 lead with eight minutes to play.
In the final quarter, Central Plains was able to shorten the game with long possessions. St. John was forced to foul and the Oilers capitalized with a 9 for 12 effort from the stripe. The Oilers led by as many as 15 points with 1:14 to play.
"Ball control is huge," Rolfs said. "We wanted to see if we could force them into a man defense, which we did. We ran some sets after that and executed a few times. Once we got to about the three-minute mark, that's when we really decided to spread it out and make them decide what they wanted to do, whether that was foul us or overplay us so maybe we could get a back door."
Osborne scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds in his Tiger finale. Six-foot-seven junior Tanner Halling added seven points and nine rebounds for St. John.
Hickel missed just two shots all night to lead all players with 21 points. Ryan scored all nine of his shots from the outside, Liebl finished with six points and six rebounds, and Lawson Oeser scored four points.
The Oiler group of seniors that includes Ryan, Liebl, Hickel, and Myles Menges ends a run with back-to-back unbeaten basketball seasons and a perfect football season last fall.
"We're going to miss those guys dearly," said Rolfs. "You can't replace a class like that. That's just part of it. Everything cycles and we work with what we have."