Taking on perhaps the best girls basketball team in Kansas small school history is tough enough. Doing so with a guard out to injury against an aggressive, full-court press just bumps the difficulty level up another notch — nigh impossible.
The South Gray girls ran straight into what’s turning out to be the impossible girls basketball team to beat, the Central Plains Oilers, who extended their state record win streak to 109 with a 63-28 beatdown of the Rebels Wednesday night at United Wireless Arena.
“That team is a great team,” South Gray head coach Paul Clancy said. “They obviously are a great team. We’re not going to compete with that type of pressure with our young guards.”
Central Plains advanced to Friday’s semifinals, and took another step towards a sixth-consecutive state title, a state record the Oilers already hold at five.
Wednesday’s win just proved how big of a challenge Central Plains presents for any opponent. The Oilers (23-0) forced South Gray (20-5) into 33 turnovers — 21 in the first half alone as the Rebels fell behind by 32 at halftime.
That led to 39 points off turnovers for Central Plains, which went 26 of 44 from the field (59.1 percent), with assists on 22 of those baskets. Emily Ryan led the offense with 26 points (24 in the first half as she sat much of the final 16 minutes), and Delaney Rugan added 21.
“Teams will play a good first quarter (vs. Central Plains), and then you can look up and you’re down 25,” Clancy said. “That press, they get lost of turnovers for easy baskets. And it’s not just their press, when they get into the half-court sets, and get open shots, they knock them down. They don’t miss.”
It took 5 minutes of game time for the Rebels to even score from the field — getting a Debbie Peters lay in — and it already was 13-4 at that point.
“First couple of possessions, we didn’t have backside help (against South Gray’s inside size), and they got a couple of baskets inside, but the girls adjusted and made it a point to get somebody to the backside, which really took away their post,” Stiles said.
The Oilers pushed that to 20-4, before South Gray went on a small 5-0 run, capped by Megan Tarn’s wing three-pointer that elicited the largest ovation of the night from the South Gray faithful.
“When it was a half-court game, we did all right,” Clancy said. “The full-court game hurt us a lot with their press.”
Oilers responded to the South Gray three by going on a 25-6 run to close out the half, forcing turnover after turnover from the Rebels, which sorely missed guard Emma Jantz, out due to injury suffered in regional final. The Rebels turned it over an astounding 21 times in the first half, directly leading to 28 points for Central Plains. The biggest benefactor was Ryan, who had 24 points by the break.
About the only thing that could slow the Oilers down — besides themselves, pulling starters by the end of the third quarter — was a third-period fire alarm that stopped play for about 5 minutes. Even that, though, just delayed the attack, as they began play after the alarm with a steal and breakaway layup.
On the other end of the court, the Central Plains defense just continued to grind, holding the Rebels scoreless in the third period. The fourth period was a battle of backups with the game long decided.
“We had a great season,” Clancy said. “What these girls did this season as fantastic, just fantastic. They’re a young team, and they exceeded my expectations by lots.
“They’re a team full of heart. They never quit … We’ve got a lot coming back next year, and we’re going to build on this.”