CLAFLIN, Kan. - Claflin-Central Plains senior point guard Emily Ryan drove in for a layup on the right side with 3 minutes and 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Oilers led Sterling by 25 points in a matchup of two top-ranked teams. Ryan, an Iowa State signing, took a hard fall, was in obvious pain and couldn’t breathe. The crowd went immediately silent.
Central Plains, #1 in 1A, defeated Sterling, #1 in 2A, 54-26 on Tuesday, January 14, 2020. (Photo: Everett Royer, www.ksportsimages.com)
At first, CP coach Pat Stiles was worried and had a flashback. His daughter, Jackie, the state’s all-time leading scorer, went for a layup in the Ellsworth tournament as a sophomore in the ‘90s. Jackie was undercut and suffered a broken wrist. Stiles first believed Ryan had broken her wrist or arm.
Then, Stiles reached Ryan and quickly realized she had gotten the wind knocked out of her. Ryan missed just over two minutes and returned in the 54-26 home victory Tuesday night.
“All that stuff flies in front of me, but she is a tough kid,” Stiles said.
The game had a running clock for most of the fourth quarter as the Oilers continued their dominance, especially defensively. Central Plains, ranked No. 1 in 1A, improved to 8-0 and pushed its all-time record winning streak to 119 games. Sterling, ranked No. 1 in 2A, dropped to 6-1.
“I landed on my shoulder and ribs, both, so it just knocked the air out of me, but I am good,” Ryan said.
Ryan collected 28 points and 11 rebounds and helped Central Plains finish plus-21 on the glass. For the year, she is averaging 28.9 points, 6.2 assists, 5.7 rebounds and four steals a contest.
“I feel great, I just went up for a layup, landed wrong,” Ryan said. “I am good. Nothing wrong.”
Immediately, though, both teams were worried. Oiler sophomore Kassidy Nixon wondered if Ryan had a “really bad injury” on her elbow.
“Honestly, I kind of freaked out a little bit,” Nixon said. “Because it scared us all. Because she is one of our key players. She is the reason we have such a great success.”
In a great show of sportsmanship, Sterling went to CP’s players and led a prayer. Ryan received a huge ovation has she came to the bench.
“Our team is really faith-oriented, and we just wanted to pray for her, because she is a good player, and we wanted to lift her up,” Sterling sophomore point guard Kali Briar said. “Just ask for healing for her.”
Ryan returned to the contest with 1:23 left in the third quarter. She quickly hit a trey for a 47-18 lead. CP led 47-20 entering the fourth.
“Once I got my composure back, and was ready to go, I wanted to be in for my teammates,” Ryan said.
Ryan made 4 of 4 foul shots in the fourth to help bump the advantage to 53-22 before she exited. Ryan moved to fourth all-time in state history in career points, ahead of former Sublette and Kansas State standout Shalee Lehning.
Ryan has eclipsed more than 2,500 career points. She trails only Jackie Stiles, Moundridge’s Laurie Koehn, and Andover’s Susan Woolf on the all-time list. Ryan has never met Lehning in person but the two have exchanged messages.
“I know she was an incredible basketball player,” Ryan said.
Overall, Sterling, the defending 2A runner-up, caused some difficulty for the Oilers. CP coach Pat Stiles is 184-4 in his eight seasons with the Central Plains girls, though two of the losses came against Sterling coach Jill Rowland. In her 13th year with the Black Bears, Rowland is 181-77.
Sterling defeated Central Plains twice in 2013, including a 58-54 loss in the postseason, CP’s last playoff defeat. Last year, CP defeated Sterling, 69-34 on Jan. 8. Since then, the Black Bears’ only loss came in the title game to Garden Plain.
“This was a huge game, both for us and Sterling,” Ryan said. “They are a great team, and going into it, we knew it would be very physical, and they are very athletic, and we have to play to really well.”
Sterling limited Central Plains to 40 percent shooting (20 of 50).
“Our defense definitely stepped up tonight,” Briar said.
CP received seven points, 11 rebounds and three blocks from senior post Addison Crites, a Barton County Community College volleyball signing. Ryan called the Oilers “really lucky” to have the 5-11 Crites, who has played well in the post in marquee games versus Haven and Sterling. Crites averages 10.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks a contest.
“She’s just amazing,” Ryan said. “I think she gets overlooked some times, because of her size. She is not the biggest girl in there, but she has the biggest heart, so that’s what’s most important. She just impresses us every single night.”
Additionally, senior Delaney Rugan tallied six points and four rebounds. Sterling shot 8 of 28 (29 percent), including 0 of 13 from long range. Overall, CP has held teams to 33 percent shooting on 2-point shots, 14 percent from beyond the arc and allowed just 25.1 points per game. Ryan believes the Oilers have improved from last year, a season that yielded state records for scoring defense and average margin of victory.
“I was really proud with how our team stepped up to the excitement of that game,” Ryan said. “And Delaney played one of her best games I’ve seen her play on the defensive end and on the glass, so I was just really proud.”
Uncharacteristically, Central Plains committed five turnovers in the first three minutes. Sterling, which consistently switched on screens, scored the game’s first four points, all from sophomore MaKenna Linden. She paced the Black Bears with 10 points.
Briar, Sterling’s standout point guard, guarded Ryan the majority of the contest. She played with a covering on her right (shooting) thumb because of a torn ligament suffered in the Kingman tournament last month.
“Jammed it really bad, and I just keep doing it,” Briar said. “So it’s just there to keep it all sturdy.”
CP tied the game at four at the 4:21 mark of the first quarter.
Sophomore Kassidy Nixon was fouled, was directly hit in the left eye, and lost her contact. After a brief hiatus, the contact was found on the floor, Nixon went over to the sideline, popped it in, and then made both free throws.
After a Sterling basket, Ryan made a 3-pointer for her first point for a 7-6 advantage. The trey kickstarted an 11-0 run. Central Plains led 17-11 after the first quarter.
“We just kept running our offense until we got a switch we liked,” Stiles said.
Ryan tallied the Oilers’ first nine points of the second quarter for a 26-12 advantage. CP led 28-14 at halftime and continued to build the lead before Ryan’s scary fall.
“When she said she’s ready to go back, I knew she’d come back in,” Stiles said.