CLAFLIN — Ellinwood’s girls made the only state basketball appearance in school history in 2006. Eventual Class 3A champion Wichita Collegiate downed the Eagles 67-39 in the first round at Hutchinson.
But thanks to feisty head coach Kyle Kriegh, the Eagles (20-1) are favored to meet defending state champion Central Plains (20-1) Saturday night with the school’s second state berth on the line. The Eagles have stated their case as the best girls basketball team in school history.
Ellinwood surprised the previous No. 1 ranked Oilers, who saw their 45-game winning streak snapped in a 66-58 setback Feb. 24. The Oilers return their standout trio of Taylor Rolfs, Janae Ryan and Reagan Phelan, who combined for 41 points in last year’s state championship game.
The teams are one victory away from an expected rematch for the second straight year. Ellinwood plays Canton-Galva (11-10) at 7:30 p.m. and Central Plains meets Plainville (8-13) at 6 p.m. in Friday’s semifinals at Central Plains High School.
Kriegh said the Eagles showed good mental toughness by not conceding anything to the Oilers. The Oilers beat Ellinwood 60-44 in last year’s substate championship en route to the Class 2A state championship.
“They have grown up playing Central Plains their whole lives, so our girls have a great deal of respect for their abilities,” Kreigh said. “We prepared for Central Plains just like we do every game. The girls approached the game with intense focus and were determined.”
Ellinwood’s Rachel Doll scored 20 points and Delaney Beckwith added 14 points, but the Eagles’ role players Blake Wilt, Tawny Arndt, Brittney Beck and Allison Panning made winning plays and played with confidence.
“We have an excellent group and our team is more than just Rachel (Doll) and Delaney (Beckwith),” he said. “Everyone that is part of our team brings something that makes us special and successful. I really enjoy the dynamics of our team. Something we all share is we do not like to lose.”
Regan Phelan scored 22 points and Taylor Rolfs added 15 points for the Oilers.
One of Ellinwood’s keys was breaking the Oilers’ fullcourt pressure and attacking it for scores. Rachel Doll was the Eagles’ primary ballhandler. The Eagles spread the court and never let the basketball stop moving.
“The girls did a great job working together and maintaining their composure,” Kriegh said. “Central Plains does an excellent job putting pressure on their opponents. We made that a focus in practice.”
Ellinwood inherited the top ranking in Class 2A by virtue of the victory, but the Eagles will rightfully be considered the underdog on the Oilers’ homecourt. Kreigh said the first victory means that the Eagles are capable of beating the Oilers.
“I believe they are favored until another team brings the state trophy home,” he said. “With that being said, I have confidence in our team and we are not real concerned with anyone outside our locker room or what most folks think. As long as our 19 girls, Coach Tyson Revell, and myself believe, we will be alright. Central Plains is the defending state champs and that accomplishments cannot be taken away. ”