DODGE CITY, Kan. - Claflin-Central Plains girls’ basketball coach Pat Stiles does not mention individual statistics nor very rarely talks about the Oilers’ all-time winning streak. Recently, Stiles was asked by a media member to look up senior point guard Emily Ryan’s all-time point total. Stiles discovered Ryan was close to 3,000 career points, a milestone reached by just two other girls in state history.
On Thursday, Ryan reached the mark on a transition layup off a pass from sophomore Kassidy Nixon with 5 minutes, 50 seconds in the second quarter. The play gave Central Plains a 32-point lead. CP went on to win 93-47 against Ingalls in the Class 1A state tournament quarterfinals from United Wireless Arena. On his own, Stiles brought up the record twice, both during and after the contest.
Entering intermission, Stiles looked at the scorebook and noticed Ryan had surpassed 3,000. Stiles told Ryan at halftime. The senior, long known for her leadership skills, deflected the individual attention.
“I think she was kind of upset with me,” Stiles said. “Like no, we are not individual stuff. We are all team. That’s the way she is.”
Ryan, along with the other three senior starters – Addison Crites, Rachel Lamatsch and Delaney Rugan – were pulled with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left in the third quarter. Central Plains led 71-18. Ryan, in her final high school game, finished with 20 points on 9 of 13 shooting. She collected six steals, five rebounds and five assists in 20 minutes, 20 seconds of action.
“I was more worried about the team,” Ryan said of halftime. “The rest of the game. We still had a half to play. I am just more focused about getting more points than the other team right now.”
Ryan finishes third on the all-time scoring list. Jackie Stiles, Claflin graduate, is first all-time at 3,603, and Moundridge’s Laurie Koehn is second at 3,160. Stiles, currently a University of Oklahoma women’s assistant, is coach Stiles’ daughter.
“How ‘bout our girl getting 3,000 points?,” Stiles said. “That was pretty good. … You take leadership skills, you take her defense, her offensive skills, her unselfishness. She is the best.”
Ryan heard several people talk about 3,000, but had “no idea” how close she was.
“It’s really not important to me,” she said. “I am more worried about our next game, so it’s either Otis-Bison or Hanover right now.”
After the victory, Central Plains watched the quarterfinal game between Hanover/Otis-Bison from the stands. KSHSAA released a statement via Twitter that cancelled the remainder of the state tournament because of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Central Plains, like many players, had tears and emotions once they found out the season was over. CP exited UWA around 9 p.m., before Hanover/Otis-Bison ended.
Many other international and U.S. events were postponed/cancelled before the KSHSAA state basketball tournament, including the NCAA tournaments and professional sports leagues. The NCAA men’s tournament had been played every year since 1939. On Thursday, Jeremy Holaday, KSHSAA assistant executive director, said Kansas being declared “a state of emergency” shifted the decision making.
“Obviously there’s a lot of outside influences when stuff like this takes place,” Holaday said.
Reached by email early Friday morning, well-known Kansas historian Carol Swenson said he doesn’t “believe there would be a comparable situation” in state tournament history. The state tournament has ran consecutively since 1912. Swenson said the tournament has “never before” not concluded for any reason.
“Even during the WWII war years 1943-44-45, the tournament was held with only four teams advancing to the final site in each of the three classes (AA, A, B) and a state champion was determined,” Swenson wrote.
Ryan, an Iowa State signee, punctuated one of the greatest careers in Kansas high school basketball history. She never lost a game. As normal, her family, notably older sister Janae, was in attendance Thursday. Janae and Emily shared a bedroom all their lives. Janae played on previous CP state teams and is currently on the Sterling College tennis squad.
“It’s just her leadership beyond her years,” Janae said of Emily. “It’s like she is a high schooler - a lot of high schoolers are all about themselves. They want to get their stats, and she is not like that at all. She is team-first all the time, always has been. It’s just how she’s always played.”
On Thursday night/early Friday morning, Janae and the Ryan’s mother, Lisa, were among many that posted notes on Twitter. Lisa wrote “Just stinks!!”
“Heartbreaking way for your career to end tonight,” Janae wrote. “But this will NEVER take away from you have accomplished and will continue to accomplish. Congrats on 3,000… I am unbelievably proud of you always!”
After the win, No. 1 seed Central Plains finished the year at 26-0. No. 8 seed Ingalls went 16-9. Central Plains has the nation’s longest winning streak in 67 years.
Entering the game, Central Plains had an average margin of 77.5-20.1. The Oilers have won 136 in a row and six consecutive state championships. CP led 15-1 before Ingalls called timeout with 3:37 left in the first quarter.
“Very clean first half,” Stiles said.
The basket for 3,000 points pushed Central Plains’ lead to 35-3 and encapsulated the Oilers’ great strengths: defense and transition play. Ingalls worked the ball inside on the right side to Britlyn Beach, its leading scorer. Nixon guarded Beach, and Beach missed the shot. Nixon, still on the right side, collected the defensive rebound.
“They just turn and go, and we fill lanes, and it’s just pretty special group, pretty special group,” Stiles said. “Very proud of them. Really lucky.”
At this point, Ryan was parallel to Nixon on the left. Nixon started to dribble down the court. Ryan took went a couple steps and remained even with Nixon.
“She always drags behind, because Emily, that’s when she gets a lot of 3s,” Stiles said.
Then, she took off just before the half-court line. Ryan was ahead of the defense and Nixon flung a cross-court pass and hit Ryan in stride. Stiles called the pass “incredible.”
“Trying to find someone open,” Nixon said. “I was actually looking for Delaney, and then I hear Emily coming out of nowhere going, ‘(Nix) I got you.’ And so I see her through like three girls, and then I just throw it, and hoping it goes right through them.”
A trend the last couple of years is a player and team having a poster made once someone reaches 1,000 career points. In this case, Ryan and her other seniors posed for pictures with a 3,000-point poster. It marked the last time Ryan wore a Central Plains basketball uniform. Ryan said playing with her teammates was the most enjoyable part of her career.
“Just a lot of disappointment,” Ryan said through tears and emotions before she walked out of UWA. “We’ve put a lot into the season, and into our high school careers, and we had no idea that this was the end, and now it’s here, and it’s really hard.”