American Implement Western Kansas Team of the Week: Bolstered by improved steal rate, Oberlin girls pick up upset win, enjoying nice season

Oberlin girls have raised its steal rate from 19 percent last season to 28 this year, a massive jump. It’s resulted in a 13-win season, including several signature wins.


Last winter, Oberlin-Decatur Community girls posted a 15-7 season, a three-win improvement from the year prior. It marked the Red Devils’ most victories in 14 seasons and continued the steady improvement under veteran coach Brandon Gehring. Oberlin graduated three of its top-five scorers, though returned two key seniors: Gabbie Vontz and Breyana Gehring.

Vontz led Oberlin with 12.9 points, 3.1 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Gehring paced Oberlin with 6.7 rebounds, while adding 7.8 points and 2.3 steals a contest. Oberlin averaged 58 possessions per game.

The Red Devils had .70 points per possession and allowed .64. Oberlin shot 32 percent, grabbed 33 percent of available offensive rebounds and drew steals on 19 percent of possessions.

This season, Oberlin has nearly identical per-possession statistics in many categories, except one major change: steal rate.

Oberlin is 13-6 with again 58 possessions a game and 33 percent offensive rebounding rate. Oberlin has shot 31 percent and scored .69 points per possession.

The steal rate has skyrocketed from 19 percent to 28 percent. Oberlin has allowed .55 points per possession, which is on par with many state championship teams.

Like last year, Oberlin has used a 1-3-1, though is much improved from 2021-22. Oberlin has several athletic players who move well, and Breyana Gehring has caused problems at the top of the defense. SIK mentioned Gehring earlier this winter on the state’s defensive player of the year watchlist.

The defense and clutch shooting helped Oberlin earn a 43-41 road double-overtime upset against Quinter last Friday. Oberlin forced 22 turnovers and delivered 16 steals. Quinter entered 16-2 and had won five in a row. The Bulldogs were ranked fifth in Class 1A, Division I by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association.

Oberlin trailed 39-36 with 36.8 seconds left. Vontz, the 5-7 point guard, found Gehring for a game-tying  3-pointer. In the half court, Vontz, on the right side, passed to Gehring at the top of the arc. Gehring had sprinted to the top and received a double screen just before she shot (h/t to Oberlin video).

Oberlin improved to 13-6 and is 62-44 in the last five seasons. In the 10 years prior, the Red Devils were a combined 51-155, per MaxPreps archives.

Oberlin has the state’s No. 80 defense out of 340 schools for all classes per Massey Ratings, which accounts for strength of schedule and quality wins. Last year, Oberlin had the No. 156 defense. Oberlin has allowed just 32.2 points a contest.

Oberlin’s win re-shaped the close Northwest Kansas League race. St. Francis went 16-3 overall, 5-1 in league play and won the regular season title because of Quinter’s loss. Quinter defeated St. Francis for the NWKL midseason tournament and beat the Indians in the regular season meeting. However, the Bulldogs lost to Wallace County on Jan. 13 before the Oberlin loss.

Oberlin will be favored in both of its games this week against Logan-Palco (7-11) and Victoria (4-16). The Red Devils are in the Quinter sub-state and should get a favorable draw in the first round. Oberlin could reach at least 16 victories. Quinter and St. Francis headline the Quinter sub-state.

Quinter dropped from fifth to eighth in the latest rankings.

Vontz has 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 1.8 assists per game. Gehring is at 8.5 points and paces the squad with 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 steals a contest. Sophomore Jenna Fortin has 4.6 points, along with two rebounds, two assists and two steals a game. Senior Avery Witt has 4.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals a game. Junior Aidyn Witt has 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds a game. Freshman Brylee Minnick has stepped up with 2.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals a contest.

Juniors Kamryn Oien and Taylor Ketterl and sophomore Michaela Wasson are key rotational players. Oberlin recorded 239 steals last winter and already has 306 this winter. On Dec. 16, Oberlin defeated Trego, 45-26. That ended a nine-game losing streak in the series. Plus, Oberlin beat Oakley, 45-38, on Dec. 20. Before then, Oberlin was 3-19 against Oakley. Oberlin also beat Atwood, 40-34, on Jan. 10. Atwood is 13-7.

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