MANHATTAN – When Central Plains’ offense misfired, the Oilers relied on aggressive defense to capture their second consecutive Class 2A basketball championship.
The Oilers forced 18 Wildcat turnovers and beat Moundridge 46-33 Saturday while holding the Wildcats to 26 percent shooting after halftime.
The Wildcats pushed the Oilers to the limit in a 61-59 setback at the Barton County Hilltop Classic championship. Moundridge led the Oilers by 17 points behind Ashley Holler before the Oilers rallied with a 29-point fourth period.
The Class 2A championship boiled down to the Oilers’ rugged defense.
Reagan Phelan and Cassidy Crites each had three steals.
“Our defense has been solid in the state tournament,” said Central Plains coach Pat Stiles. “Ashley Holler is a terrific player. We knew where she was all the time.”
Oiler point guard Reagan Phelan gave Central Plains momentum with a solid third quarter. She had assists to Cassidy Crites, Janae Ryan and Kylee Kasselman for a 24-22 lead. Taylor Rolfs scored a basket and assisted to Kasselman for a 26-22 lead after three quarters.
The Oilers made 10 of 41 field goals through three periods.
The Wildcats sliced the lead to 28-26 on free throws by Michelle Schrag and Anna Stucky.
The Oilers (25-1) finally broke the Wildcats with a 9-0 run and 7 of 8 shooting in the fourth quarter off three assists and solid teamwork.
Kendi Maxwell stepped up and converted two key baskets. Phelan drove to the basket for two scores.
“It’s always been a team effort for us,” Stiles said. “Reagan Phelan and Taylor Rolfs give the ball up and trust their teammates. Our team chemistry is what really helps us.”
Stiles said the Oilers did a good job pushing the ball up the court for some quick baskets.
“We always want to push the ball up the court,” he said.
Moundridge (23-3) shot 47 percent the first half to lead, but made 5 of 19 shots after halftime with 11 second-half turnovers.
“We didn’t handle the basketball very well at times,” said Moundridge coach Vicky Kessler. “They are a tough defensive team. We didn’t make the shots that second half. We really needed to attack the basket better and get to the free throw line.”
Kessler said Peri Lange did a terrific job defending Phelan. The Wildcats used a man-to-man, matchup defense against Phelan and a zone defense.
“We played defense very well, but ran out of gas,” Kessler said. “But I’m awfully proud of this team.”
The Oilers started 1 of 15 from the field and trailed 11-3.
“They defended us really well,” Stiles said. “They’d played us and knew our plays. Sometimes, we settle for 3-pointers too often rather than taking it to the basket.”
Moundridge sports the best tradition in Class 2A girls with a state best seven championships and 12 final appearances.
VALLEY FALLS 50
Bailey Olvera scored 22 points and Jaylin Stapleton added 17 points to spark the Buffaloes past Valley Falls in the third-place game. Meade (21-4) finished third after a fourth-place finish in 2014.
Callie Watson scored 16 points for Valley Falls (22-4).