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Central Plains boys win back-to-back titles
Central Plains’ Alex Hickel dribbles past St. John defender Marshall Woolf on Saturday. Hickel scored 21 points to spark the Oilers past St. John 40-28 in Saturday’s 1A state basketball championship. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

Oilers win back-to-back tittles

By: Hugo Gonzalez

DODGE CITY – Central Plains Oiler Alex Hickel ruined a crafty game plan by St. John coach Clint Kinnamon.

Hickel scored 21 points to spark the Oilers past Central Prairie League rival St. John 40-28 in Saturday’s 1A state basketball championship.

The Tigers played a sagging zone defense that limited high-scoring Brett Liebl to six points after he scored 45 points in two state tournament games. 

Hickel responded to convert 7 of 9 field goals from mid-range.

“St. John played a really good defensive game,” Liebl said. “I had to step up and be a leader for our team. I drove to the open gaps. It felt amazing. I felt great the whole game.” 

The Oilers (27-0) swept their second consecutive state basketball title with an unbeaten record to stretch their winning streak to 53 in a row. The Oilers beat St. John (22-5) for the fourth time this season.

“We saw everyone’s best shot since last year,” said Central Plains coach Brett Rolfs. “They are fighters who believe in each other. I haven’t coached another team that’s played better as a unit – especially defensively.” 

The Oilers converted 11 St. John turnovers into 19 points at the offensive end, the difference in the ballgame.

“We executed just enough offensively to make the difference,” Rolfs said. “When we saw zone, they forced us to make some shots. We made enough of them.”

St. John played a spread offense that attacked with point guard Mason Osborne, who scored 11 points. The Oilers’ defense held Osborne to 4 of 13 shooting. Tanner Halling scored seven points. The Tigers converted 10 of 29 field goals.

The Tigers’ strategy worked for nearly two quarters. When Eddy Calleros drilled a 3-pointer, the Tigers were tied 13-13. But Hickel converted a 3-point play and Liebl added two free throws for a 18-13 halftime lead.

Osborne scored two third-quarter baskets to keep the Tigers within 25-20.

The Oilers’ defense took charge, literally and figuratively, by drawing two offensive fouls on Osborne and another on Tanner Halling in the fourth quarter. The Oilers stretched it out safely by converting nine free throws in the fourth period.

“We hang our hat on defense and rebounding and we did that tonight,” Rolfs said. “We stress getting after it defensively and work off that.”

The Tigers converted 10 of 29 field goals with 11 turnovers. The Tigers earned good quality shots.

“We missed some shots we needed to make that first half. We did a good job attacking, but didn’t finish plays. We hit shots, it’s a different game. Bottom-line, you’ve got to make shots.”

“We talked about taking Brett Liebl and Devin Ryan away, but Alex Hickel hit shots,” Kinnamon said. “

The Tigers (22-5) lost to Central Plains 45-32, 42-31 and 55-35 in earlier meetings this season. The Tigers own six state championships, four under coach Kinnamon.

“Our effort every day was outstanding and that’s all you can ask for. They made me proud.”

St. John  7  6   7  8  – 28

C. Plains 8 10  9 13 – 40

ST. JOHN (22-5)—Osborne 4-13 2-3 11, Tanner Halling 2-3 3-6 7, Marshall Woolf 2-4 0-0 5, Eddy Calleros 1-3 0-0 3, Fisher 0-2 0-0 0, Collin Halling 0-2 0-0 0, Toby Woolf 1-1 0-0 2, Pepic 0-1 0-0 0, Uriel Calleros 0-0 0-0 0, McVey 0-0 0-0 0, Fernadez 0-0 0-0 0, Delp 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 10-29 5-9 28

CENTRAL PLAINS (27-0)—Hickel 7-9 5-5 21, Devin Ryan 2-6 3-4 9, Liebl 2-4 2-3 6, Oeser 1-5 2-3 4, Menges 0-2 0-0 0, Bieberle 0-1 0-0 0, Bralen Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Brett Thompson 0-0 0-0 0, Holmes 0-0 0-0 0, Hurley 0-0 0-0 0, Heredia 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 12-27 12-17 40

3-pointers—SJ 3-8 (E. Calleros 1-2, Osborne 1-3, M. Woolf 1-2, C. Halling 0-1); CP 4-13 (Hickel 2-3, Ryan 2-6, Oeser 0-4); Rebounds—SJ 21 (T. Halling 9); Assists—SJ 6 (Osborne 2); CP 10 (Ryan 3, Oeser 3); Steals—SJ 3 (Fisher 1, Osborne 1, C. Halling 1); CP 1 (Menges 1); TO—SJ 11, CP 6