There were no surprises in the girls 1A Championship Game. No end of Central Plains’ massive winning streak, no historic upset at the hands of Hanover.
But it wasn’t always easy. Not early anyway.
The Central Plains Oilers girls basketball team overcame a furious first-half by the Hanover Wildcats, winning their sixth straight State Basketball Title with a 52-34 win Saturday night.
Early on, Hanover took a 3-0 lead, and they held it for over three minutes before Central Plains finally took their first lead at 4-3 with about 3:45 left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats took the lead back with about three minutes left in the first.
The score was tied at 7-7 and 10-10 before Central Plains eventually took a 12-10 lead to end the quarter.
Central Plains junior Emily Ryan had 29 points but had to play all four quarters, a rarity for her. That was, at least in part, because of the way Hanover used their tall players inside and their outside shooting to challenge her team.
“I felt like we did a great job of not settling on our offense,” Hanover head coach Chris Beikmann said. “I felt like we were aggressive defensively making Emily do something she didn’t want to do and that’s give the ball up. She’s a hell of a point guard and as you could see late in the game, she’s their offense.”
Among those who challenged Central Plains inside was Hanover senior Macy Doebele. She had a double-double finishing with a game-high 11 rebounds and a team-high 15 points.
“I felt like our girls did a good job with our game plan, and offensively I felt like we were ready for their press, we were ready for their man-to-man, but when they slapped that 2-1-2 on us, it’s not like we’ve never went against a 2-1-2, we just stopped being aggressive,” Beikmann said.
That caused issues for Hanover.
“They were so good at getting to us and we never looked to get it inside the paint and try and create,” Beikmann said. “We passed around the perimeter, and if you let a team like them get a steal, it’s a layup on the other end. It’s hard to get back on them they’re so fast, but I felt like our girls did a great job up to that run in the third quarter when they made that run on us, we couldn’t score, we weren’t getting the ball inside, it was frustrating, and that was the ball game.”
Outside of Ryan and Doebele, Central Plains junior Delaney Rugan was the only player with double-digit points Saturday night for either side.
Central Plains head coach Pat Stiles said someone the stats might not give enough credit to was senior Avery Hurley.
“She didn’t leave the floor, our senior, didn’t leave the floor one time, and just defended and was just all over the place,” Stiles said.
Another was senior Rylee Cunningham.
“(Cunningham) hadn’t got a lot of minutes this year, but (Addison Crites) got into such big foul trouble and she just played a ton,” Stiles said.
Not only did she play a lot, Cunningham played well.
“I don’t even know if she missed a shot,” Stiles said. “She was big.”
The Oilers outscored the Wildcats 15-11 in the second quarter, taking a 27-21 lead into halftime, but outscored the Wildcats 11-3 in the third to take firm control of the game.
“Once we started getting it back to the free-throw line and attacking, we kind of held in there in the fourth, but they already had their lead and they can go to stall mode and at that point you’re fouling pry the best player in 1A basketball history,” Beikmann said. “That ain’t a recipe for success.”
For the Wildcats, it was a bittersweet sendoff to a group of seniors (including Doebele) who had done so much for the program. They had won the last two 1A DI State Championships before finishing second this season against the incredible Oilers team.
As for Central Plains, it’s likely they have another run left in them next season, with four of five starters returning, including Ryan.