Central Plains heads back to Manhattan: 2A state preview

Central Plains coach Pat Stiles instructs his starters during a tournament game in January. (photo by Mike Courson)

Lady Oilers a heavy favorite for fourth-straight title

By Mike Courson

The Central Plains girls enter the Class 2A State Tournament as the only unbeaten team. As winners of the last three state titles and with just one loss over the last four seasons, the Lady Oilers are a heavy favorite in this year’s bracket. If Central Plains can win, the school will tie a state record with four-consecutive state titles. The Lady Oilers enter the bracket with a 100-1 record over the past four seasons.

Here is a breakdown of all eight teams in the bracket. All games are played at Kansas State University’s Bramlage Coliseum:

No. 1 Central Plains (23-0) vs. No. 8 Chase County (15-8), Thursday 3 p.m.

According to maxpreps.com, Central Plains has outscored opponents 1,618-631 this season with one game not included in those statistics. That means the Lady Oilers are winning by an average of nearly 45 points a game this season.

Central Plains can hurt teams a variety of ways. Freshman Emily Ryan is one of the top guards in all of Kansas. She is a key piece of the Lady Oiler defense that likes to force turnovers and score in transition. Ryan is also a threat from the perimeter.

Senior Janae Ryan is one of the top 3-point shooters in all of Kansas. She recently went 9 for 11 from behind the arc to open the postseason. Senior Cassity Crites is a threat from the inside or outside, and senior Kylee Kasselman can score points by the bunches as more of an inside threat.

Chase County was the No. 2 seed in a relatively mild Canton-Galva sub-state that included Moundridge, previously ranked No. 2 in 2A. The Lady Bulldogs edged Moundridge 36-32 in the sub-state finals on Saturday. Just two of the eight teams in that sub-state entered with winning records.

Central Plains and Chase County have no similar opponents this season. Moundridge suffered a big loss to Life Prep Academy in the semifinals of the Hilltop Hoops Classic in January, and Central Plains easily handled Life Prep the next night in the finals.

No. 4 Valley Falls (20-3) vs. No. 5 Berean Academy (19-4), Thursday, 4:45 p.m.

Valley Falls was one of three unbeaten teams to enter the state tournament last year. Olpe and Central Plains, the other two unbeatens, played for a state title, and Valley Falls went on to finish third.

As host of a sub-state, the Lady Dragons had a lackluster 35-25 win against Troy (5-16) in round one, then defeated Jackson Heights (8-12) 38-23 in the semifinals. The real test was a 52-38 win against Jefferson County North (19-3) in Saturday’s semifinal. Two of Valley Falls’ three losses come by a total of three points, including a 52-51 overtime loss to Jefferson County North in December.

In three meetings against Jeff. Co. North, Allison Kearney hit six threes and averaged eight points a game. Rachel Frakes averaged 10.5 ppg in the first two meetings against JCN.

Berean Academy enters with three of its four losses coming against quality teams Remington, Cheney, and Halstead. The Lady Warriors have a notable win against Sterling.

Ashytn Wiebe and Amanda Harder are the big offensive threats for Berean, with Lizzi Landis and Renata Goosen among the group of multi-year varsity players.

No. 2 Wabaunsee (21-2) vs. No. 7 St. Mary’s Colgan (15-7), Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

The Lady Chargers are not accustomed to playing close games with most wins coming by a sizable margin. Wabaunsee’s two losses come by a total of five points against Chase County and Rossville. The Lady Chargers opened sub-state with wins of 62-19 and 66-30 before taking down Washington County (17-5) 61-54 in the championship game.

St. Mary’s has been a mainstay in recent 2A state tournaments. The Lady Panthers are 0-3 in their last three appearances in the last three seasons, with two of those losses coming in the first round to the eventual champion Lady Oilers. Even as a No. 4 seed with just two losses in 2015, St. Mary’s bowed out in the first round. St. Mary’s lost to Wabaunsee 58-26 in a February meeting.

No. 3 Meade (21-2) vs. No. 6 Hill City (17-6), Thursday, 8:15 p.m.

Of the seven other teams in the 2A state tournament, Meade has the easiest schedule to cross reference with Central Plains. Otis-Bison will play in the 1A, Div. II state tournament. Right after a running-clock loss to Central Plains, the Lady Cougars knocked off Meade, then No. 2 in 2A, 56-51 on Feb. 3. The Lady Buffs lost their next game to 17-win Hooker, Okla. for their only other loss this season. Meade has a notable 66-59 win against Kiowa County. The Lady Mavs were ranked No. 6 in 2A before falling to Ellinwood in the first round of the same sub-state from which Central Plains advanced with ease.

The Lady Buff success this season revolves around senior Jaylin Stapleton. The 5-6 senior is averaging 21.1 points and 3.6 steals a game this year. Senior Bailey Lewis is averaging 8.5 ppg, and senior McKenna Rudzik leads the team with six boards a night to go with her 5.8 ppg.

Thursday’s late game is a rematch of last year’s first-round game. Hill City pulled off an overtime upset and went on to finish fourth in the bracket. The Lady Ringnecks have a pair of losses to 3A powerhouse TMP, and another loss to 1A, Div. I power Beloit-St. John’s.

Hill City has long been known for its 3-point shooting abilities. This year, the Lady Ringnecks are 144 for 490 (29 percent) from the outside. Junior Conner Keith has hit 63 threes this year and shoots 33 percent from the perimeter. She leads the squad at 17.3 ppg. Junior Ellie Kenner is averaging 10.6 ppg, and junior Carrie Kennedy is big on the glass at 9.7 rpg to go with her six points a night.

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