This feature is presented by First Kansas Bank. Proud to support the Central Plains Oilers. Congrats on the state record win streak. First Kansas Bank has locations in Claflin, Great Bend, Hays and Hoisington.
Also special thanks to Nex-Tech Wireless for powering the Central Kansas Athlete of the Month. Congrats to the Oilers!
Central Plains girls break all-time consecutive wins mark in Kansas High School Girls Basketball with 108 straight wins, breaking the Hoxie mark of 107 set from 2011-to-2016.
Jackie Stiles enjoyed a legendary career at Claflin High School and still holds multiple Kansas records, including career points. She led Missouri State to the Final Four and set the NCAA all-time scoring mark. Stiles is currently a veteran assistant women’s basketball coach at her alma mater.
Stiles is often asked: “What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?” One of the sayings she always says is a line her dad, Pat, taught her when she was young.
Pat Stiles, the current Claflin-Central Plains girls’ basketball coach, used Barry Sanders, the Hall of Fame Detroit Lions running back, as an example.
Sanders was known for highlight reel plays and breakaway speed, but whenever he tallied a touchdown, he calmly handled the ball to the official. Pat reminded Jackie to “act like you have done it before.”
“Know you are the best inside, but never shout it out,” Jackie said.
Decades later, the mantra encapsulates the Central Plains girls’ basketball team, led by coach Stiles and junior point guard Emily Ryan, who has already cleared 2,000 career points. Ryan, Stiles and Moundridge’s Laurie Koehn are the only players in state history to have 2,000 before senior year.
On Saturday, the Oilers, the consolidation of Claflin and Quivira Heights in the last decade, achieved another historic milestone with a 69-13 victory against Atwood-Rawlins County in the Class 1A Russell sub-state championship game at Barton County Community College.
The win marked the 108th consecutive for Central Plains, which broke the record of 107 set by Hoxie from 2012-16. This season, CP has won contests by an average of 52 points. Central Plains, whose season motto is “Stay Humble, Stay Hungry,” moved to 24-0 this season, 25-0 counting a KSHSAA postseason bye last week.
While Pat Stiles had some internal stress regarding the streak, the Oilers’ contest and postgame celebration had little variation from past victories. Stiles pulled his starters in the last minute of the third quarter.
The game had a fourth-quarter running clock. Once the horn sounded, Stiles kept his typical calm demeanor. He clapped once, and Ryan high-fived her teammates.
Central Plains lined up for the customary sub-state award and photo. To Stiles’ surprise and happiness, multiple players from past teams came out of the stands and joined the current squad in the photo.
CP, already the only program in state history to win five straight state girls titles, has dropped just one game since the start of the ’13-14 season, a 66-58 loss to Ellinwood on Feb. 24, 2015.
“Jackie was an ultimate of that,” Stiles said. “She carried herself with a lot of confidence, but she never shouted it out how good she was, and I always respected that, and these kids are the same way, oh very humble, very humble kids.
“They are just great to be around, and like I say, they just like playing for each other,” he added. “But very, very humble kids. I am really proud of the way they behave, carry themselves on the court and off the court, very proud of them.”
In the locker room, Stiles told the players in “take the monkey off my back” concerning the streak, a run CP has discussed little. Ryan felt “a lot of pride” in her team, but also significantly addressed getting better this week for state.
Central Plains is the No. 1 seed in the 1A state tournament that starts Wednesday at United Wireless Arena in Dodge City. The field features two other undefeated teams in Rural Vista (24-0) and Olpe (23-0).
“We know we have so many weaknesses that we can get better at,” Ryan said. “So just try to find those every practice and try to improve on those, and we know that any given night, anything can happen, and we have to come ready every single game.”
Stiles has spent more than 30 years at Claflin in various roles. Jackie still remembers going onto the Claflin High School gym for the first time.
“I just went crazy running on the gym floor,” she said.
He coached the Wildcat boys for more than a decade, and Jackie was always around, at practices, on the team bus and even to a coaching clinic when she was five to six years old. Pat taught Jackie the fundamentals.
He stepped aside to watch Jackie in high school. Stiles served as junior high coach from 1997-2012, except from ’03-06 when he was the assistant high school girls’ coach with Toby Holmes. Stiles was able to coach his daughter, Roxanne, an elite talent who also went to Missouri State. Claflin girls won the state title in 2005 and ’06 with just one loss each season.
“My dad is extremely quiet and shy, and a lot of people don’t know that,” Jackie said. “When he steps on the basketball floor as a coach, he almost has a whole other personality as far as the way he coaches with such confidence, and his players get such confidence from him and his demeanor.”
“He has never been a screamer,” she added. “He has never been motivated by screaming or being degrading or anything like that. He has always just had kind of a calm confidence about him when he’s coached.”
In ‘11-12, the first year of consolidation, Central Plains finished fourth in 2A. Then, Holmes, still currently the principal, stepped down. Stiles had coached the junior high, and a group that included Reagan Phelan and Taylor Rolfs and went undefeated in seventh and eighth grade.
Phelan and Rolfs, currently a key player for Fort Hays, both come from a long line of Quivira Heights graduates. Phelan, now at 1,000-point scorer at Washburn, has four older sisters and had multiple cousins graduate from Quivira Heights.
Rolfs’ dad is one of five brothers, all whom graduated from QH. Her uncle, Brett, is the highly successful Central Plains’ boys basketball coach. The Oiler boys have won 50 straight games.
“I never would have ever imagined that I would be coaching high school basketball at Claflin,” coach Rolfs said. “But it’s obviously Central Plains, we consolidated, but at the time growing up playing at Quivira Heights, you can’t imagine that that would have ever happened. Pretty surreal, because we had a really, really big rivalry for a long time, but it’s worked out well.”
Rolfs said the kids “meshed really well” from the start, a positive echoed by Central Plains football coach Chris Steiner, a Claflin graduate in the ‘90s. He has led CP to state crowns in ’14 and ’18. For Phelan, she and her Quivira Heights teammates had to combine with Claflin in junior high as “Claflin Wildcats” because of low numbers.
“We didn’t have enough at QH to form a basketball team, so we played with them, both girls and boys, and then just kind of took off from there,” she said.
Stiles bumped up to the varsity as Phelan and Rolfs entered their freshman year. CP went 20-3 in 2012-13. The run started the following season when they duo were sophomores.
Missouri State plays their conference tournament the same time that Kansas has its state tournament. In ’14, MSU had an early loss, and Jackie drove throughout the night and reached Manhattan to watch Central Plains.
She sat behind the bench with her brother, Dr. P.J. Stiles, and watched as the Oilers completed an undefeated season with a last-second shot off an in-bounds play against Jefferson County North. It remains the only time Jackie has seen her dad win a state title. She called it a “moment I will never forget for sure.”
“Those first couple years were shaky for the older classes,” Phelan said. “But when we came into high school, it was just like we had always been one school, so we worked so well together, and we always had great athletes coming up from both schools, so it just went together perfect.”
In the ’14-15 season, Central Plains suffered its only loss late in the regular season versus Ellinwood, an in-county and league foe. CP then defeated the Eagles in sub-state and went on to win all three state games by double figures.
In ’15-16, the Oilers again earned another title, and Phelan collected Miss Kansas Basketball. While Central Plains has enjoyed stars, the Oilers have had high-level secondary players, too.
“It kind of came as a shock to all of us,” Phelan said of the loss. “I think it put us in the right mindset going into sub-state when we were going to have to face them again, and thankfully we beat them that time and went on to win state, but we still kind of bring it up of ‘What if we would have not lost that game of how long the streak would have been?’ but it’s OK now, because we have still got our rings.”
Key players from the ’15-16 team have went on to college athletics.
Keeley Hipp and Janae Ryan, Emily’s sister, have enjoyed all-conference tennis careers at Sterling. Kylee Kasselman played volleyball at Hesston College, and Cassidy Crites has earned all-region accolades with the Hutchinson Community College volleyball team as a setter. It’s impressive talent for any school, much less one at the 1/2A level.
“They are starting a dynasty down there,” Phelan said.
In Jan. 2016, Hoxie ended its winning streak at 107 with an overtime loss to Hill City. While Central Plains and Hoxie never played each other – and have very few common opponents – Stiles and then-Indian coach Shelly Hoyt talked at summer KBCA all-star games.
Stiles asked about dealing with the stress of the winning streak. Hoyt, who is in her second year at Eureka, told him not to pay attention to it. Stiles has taken the advice and tried to deflect any pressure away from the Oilers.
Both Stiles and Hoyt run a high-octane, pressing look that is predicated on turnover creation and fast breaks. Rawlins County coach Brad Pfortmiller had to face both Hoxie and Central Plains during their runs.
“Very similar,” he said. “They do probably about the exact same stuff, just everything is off of that defense, just fuels everything they do.”
The backbone starts with Stiles and assistant coach Jim Ryan, the former junior high boys’ coach and the father of Emily, Janae and CP senior point guard Devin Ryan. Like Stiles, Ryan focuses on the fundamentals and remains even-keeled. They have led the Oilers to three straight 26-0 seasons from ’16-18 in 2A. All of the title games have been by at least 11 points.
“He is just a calming touch on our team,” Emily said. “If anyone is worked up, he is calm, mellow, and he can keep the composure of a lot of us, which has been really nice. It’s a lot of fun, just to be able to share these moments with my dad, it’s really important for me.”
The Ryans are long known for their hard work and unselfish attitudes. Emily and her teammates will often shoot in the morning. Devin will then shoot again after practice, and then Emily will normally return to school to shoot at night.
“He has always been calm,” Devin said. “He has pushed us to be great, but he hasn’t pushed us hard. He has just let us do what we want, and follow our own paths basically.”
Last year, Emily Ryan was the only full-time returning starter for the Oilers. She averaged 22 points as a freshman and 34.5 as a sophomore. This season, she is again over 30 points a game, part of a group that returns four starters with senior Avery Hurley and juniors Rachel Lamatsch, Delaney Rugan and Rachel Lamatsch. Junior Addison Crites missed the last month of ’17-18 with a knee injury but has returned and played well in the post.
Central Plains has an average score of 75-23 and has captured every game by at least 26 points. That included two victories against 20-win Otis-Bison, one against Class 2A state qualifying Sterling, and a 57-24 road win versus Haven, ranked second in 3A in the season’s final poll.
“He is just always one step ahead of you, and the great part is, is he is calm on the bench, because he has got those great players,” Otis-Bison coach Bobby Trapp said. “You never see him get up and say stuff. He is cool, calm.”
On Friday, Rawlins County practiced nine against five to try and mimic Central Plains’ swarming pressure. It didn’t work.
“It’s impossible until you absolutely get out there,” Pfortmiller said. “You pick up your dribble, they are going to trap you. They get the ball out, they run, but boy, everything is off of that pressure.”
The Buffs led 3-2 after the first four minutes as Ryan missed her first four field goals. Then, Ryan made 8 of her next 10 shots and CP led 30-5 with 4:49 left in the first half en route to another big win.
“You have just got to stay the path,” Ryan said. “If you put time in the gym, you know that shots are going to start falling, so I just had to keep my composure.”
Central Plains opens up the 2019 state tournament this week on Wednesday at 6:30 pm as they take on South Gray (21-4) in the opening round of Class 1A in Dodge City.
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