WAKEENEY, Kan. - The Central Plains boys work daily on being disciplined, staying vertical, jumping to the ball, and playing without fouling. The Oilers, with its elite talent and experience, often switch on screens.
Additionally, Central Plains watched a significant amount of Stockton film and knew the Tigers’ tendencies well. CP had an inside advantage with its senior standouts Myles Menges and Brett Liebl.
The practice and strengths helped the Oilers tally the game’s first 29 points in a 73-25 victory Friday night in the Class 1A sub-state semifinals at WaKeeney-Trego Community High School. Including a postseason bye, the Oilers moved to 24-0 after a perfect season and Class 2A championship last winter.
“My biggest fear is we will relax or we will get too complacent,” coach Brett Rolfs said. “And I just don’t want us to do that. I want us to stay focused. No matter what the score is, I want us to get better at all times. I am constantly coaching. Of course, I am a defensive-minded guy, so we really stress that a lot. Our great defense, that just feeds into better offense in my opinion.”
Stockton ended the season at 8-15. Central Plains will play Wallace County (21-2) in the sub-state finals Saturday. Because of the weather, the girls’ game has been moved to 4 p.m. with the boys’ contest to follow.
Central Plains led 21-0 after the first quarter in a near-perfect effort. The Oilers grabbed all 12 available first quarter rebounds and made its first five shots. CP sunk 8 of 11 attempts in the first quarter.
“We just knew we had to keep them in front,” senior point guard Devin Ryan said. “And we did that pretty well in the first quarter, and then we got out and ran really well and caught them off guard before they could get their defense set up. We just preach ‘Get bodies, get bodies,’ and we must have done that.”
Central Plains bumped the lead to 29-0 before sophomore Ethan Means scored for the Tigers with 4 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first half.
“A lot of times we will switch if we feel like we can match up with anybody on the court,” Rolfs said.
Stockton often settled for long 3s. Central Plains allowed just two first half free throw attempts and four in the contest, the latter two coming in the fourth quarter.
“We stress jumping to the ball, being in the right position, and … playing vertical,” Rolfs said. “And not picking up ticky-tack calls. We want to make those guys earn it on the other side.”
The Oilers led 36-9 at halftime and 59-19 after three quarters. The game had a running clock in the fourth quarter.
“For the most part, other than maybe one guy on their team, if there was an on ball or just a pin down screen or whatever, we just switched it, and I think that frustrated them a lot,” Rolfs said. “They come off a screen, and there we would have a different guy there.”
CP’s four seniors are all returning starters. Liebl, with an excellent first step and ability to shoot both left- and right-handed inside, delivered 24 points and seven rebounds. Menges, a Fort Hays football signee, had 19 points and nine rebounds.
“It is a luxury,” Ryan said of Liebl’s playmaking. “There’s not many big men you can throw the ball at half court to, and they can go finish.”
Ryan ran the offense efficiently, threaded bounce passes past Stockton defenders and ran the fast break. He recorded 12 points and 10 assists.
“Coach always preaches bounce passes, because if you throw at your chest, that’s where the hands are, so get it below the hands,” Ryan said. “And it usually works.”
Rolfs coached Ryan’s older brother, Michael, a former Central Plains all-state player and in attendance Friday. Rolfs said Devin “has grown up a lot.”
“Can’t overstate how important it is to have a leader like him,” Rolfs said. “Point guard really truly is the most important position on the court, and he is our coach on the court. Very smart kid. He knows what I want. He knows the schemes that we look for, and he is a very good leader, and he just translates what I want onto the court, and I couldn’t ask for anybody better than him other than maybe his brother, they were really comparable.
“But yeah, I have been spoiled there,” Rolfs added. “But yeah, he really has come into his own, too, and some of that was playing underneath his brother for a few years there. I think he learned a lot from that.”
Junior Lawson Oeser finished with eight points. CP shut down Stockton senior Brady Beougher, who averaged 19.7 points per contest. Beougher didn’t score until 1:30 left in the third quarter and Ryan out of the game.
“It was fun to watch,” Rolfs said. “They executed really well.”
Ryan opened the game with a pass to Liebl inside. Then, Liebl tallied an offensive rebound off a Hickel miss and scored. Hickel found Ryan for a trey and a quick 7-0 lead.
All of Ryan’s points came off 3s – two in the first quarter and another pair early in the third.
“Offensively, we knew we’d probably have an inside advantage, and that opened up some outside stuff after that,” Rolfs said.