WAKEENEY, Kan. - Rexford-Golden Plains girls’ basketball coach Parker Christensen has seen his team deliver a key surge against many opponents this winter. The flurries have helped GP post a 24-0 mark and rank in the top 10 of Class 1A most of the year.
On Thursday, the critical run occurred in the first minute of overtime.
Golden Plains tallied two baskets in 30 seconds and eight points in 60 seconds. The burst helped the Bulldogs outscore Dighton 9-0 in overtime for a 41-32 comeback win in the Class 1A sub-state semifinals at WaKeeney-Trego Community High School.
“One thing will lead to something, and then we will get on a little bit of a roll,” Christensen said.
Golden Plains will face Kensington-Thunder Ridge, which defeated Otis-Bison 49-40 in the first semifinal, in Saturday’s sub-state title game. TR is 20-2.
“They will be by far – by far – the best team we’ve played all season,” Christensen said.
Dighton led most of the game, including 30-29 entering the fourth quarter. In the fourth, Golden Plains forced seven Hornet turnovers, and had just one miscue. However, the Bulldogs went 0 of 12 from the field in the final eight minutes.
Golden Plains’ defense limited Dighton to just one fourth quarter field goal attempt. GP had a shot to win the game in regulation, but senior KayCee Miller missed a jumper. Dighton junior post Ella Roberts, who had a game-high 21 points, fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
In the overtime, Golden Plains’ defense clamped down again. The Bulldogs again held Dighton to one field goal attempt, a missed 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 30 seconds left, and forced three turnovers.
Golden Plains has limited to just 24 points per game this year. The Bulldogs have two sets of sisters with the Millers and twin sophomores Brooke and Ashley Stoll (12 points).
“They are like bread and butter,” Christensen said. “They are just together all the time. They are as thick as thieves and best of friends, so they kind of have an idea of where people are going to be, what this one is going to do. It’s fun coaching them.”
Four starters ran on the gold-medal winning 1,600-meter relay at state last spring.
“We have athletic ability, we have speed, and we try to use that as much as we can,” Christensen said. “We just couldn’t get into that very good tonight.”
Miller, one of the top 1A players again this year, had a team-high 13 points. She quickly scored in overtime for a 34-32 lead.
“They were just quick to the basket,” Dighton coach Amy Felker said. “They put a lot of pressure on everybody. Every time we got the defensive rebound, they put lots of pressure on us, and they were strong with the ball. They are just well-coached, they are a fundamental team. They just work the ball. When you have got three guards that can shoot and score, it’s hard to guard.”
Then, Golden Plains had a steal and layup from Miller’s younger sister, freshman Kassie. A back court steal followed and sophomore Brooke Stoll tallied another basket for a 38-32 advantage.
“We told ourselves we were going to be aggressive and get after it right from the start,” KayCee Miller said. “We didn’t play the best, but our defense, that’s what’s kept us in games all year, so we knew if we depended on that, it would come around, shots would start falling.”
After KayCee Miller had another steal, Golden Plains had three shots on one possession, and junior Mable Lugo scored off an offensive rebound for a 40-32 lead.
“We definitely knew the lane was going to be open,” KayCee said of Dighton’s defense without Roberts. “Their subs are a little bit slower. It just gave us a little boost of confidence really.”
Lugo delivered several big plays in the contest, including eight rebounds in the final three quarters, four in the fourth. Assistant coach Steve Shaw labeled Lugo a “blue collar player.”
Lugo missed the first four games because of a severe ankle injury from volleyball, and rejoined the team before Christmas. Compared to previous years, her role has changed from a scorer the last three years to a facilitator this winter, with more rebounding and assists.
“The Lugo girl is normally the key to our team,” Christensen said. “Because she has to play defense on the bigger girl, and she is not a real big girl, but she is pretty tough inside, used her quickness.”
Dighton (13-11) had 12 players listed on the roster, but has went through an up-and-down season and just eight available. Roberts averaged 12 points and eight rebounds and has started since her freshman year.
Seniors Gentry Shapland and Emily Sheppard have been key players all four years. Dighton led 10-9 after the first quarter, 19-16 at halftime and 30-29 entering the fourth quarter.
Golden Plains took a 31-30 lead with 5:27 left on a great steal from KayCee Miller. Lugo was eventually fouled and made two free throws.
The 5-foot-11 Roberts made her first of two free throws with 1:59 remaining and finished with her second-most points this year. Junior Gracie George gave Dighton a 32-31 lead at the 1:27 mark. George had not scored this year before Thursday.
“To put the team we had on the court and do what we did, there’s no words that I can say for how they accepted each other and ran with it, and left everything on the court,” Felker said. “They played their heart out with lots of determination.”
KayCee Miller tied the game at 32 when she sunk her second of two foul shots with 1:12 left. Dighton tried to run the clock down, but Lugo stole the ball, but GP couldn’t score, which set the stage for another Bulldog run, this time in overtime.
“We couldn’t get anything in the full court, couldn’t get them turned over until late, but we are proud of them for sticking to it,” Christensen said.