By CONOR NICHOLL
QUINTER – Longtime Rexford-Golden Plains girls’ basketball coach Parker Christensen heard the question throughout the offseason: Can you keep winning without a Miller? Entering this year, Christensen was 398-262 in his GP career.
However, in the last 10 seasons, Christensen has led the Bulldogs to a 213-33 record. That includes a pair of state runner-up appearances. Golden Plains was third and second the last two winters in Class 1A, Division II. The Bulldogs posted four straight undefeated regular seasons, by far Kansas’ longest current run for either gender. GP is 94-4 in the last four seasons.
In that decade, GP had at least one of: Kami, KayCee and Kassie Miller. All three were superb multi-sport athletes. KayCee and Kassie were each consensus first team all-state players and played in the KBCA summer all-star game. KayCee finished with 1,159 career points and played briefly at Barton County Community College. She is currently Christensen’s assistant coach and is training young basketball players in the Rexford area. Kassie delivered 1,245 points, which is fourth all-time for the school.
Golden Plains returned two seniors, Breanna Rath and Sidney Taylor. Rath is an exceptional defensive player and was all-state last season. Plus, 5-foot-10 Jordyn Fleckenstein, junior Emma Weiner, 5-9 sophomore Anette Hernandez and sophomore Hayden Wark were among key returners. Golden Plains graduated more than half of its scoring from a 24-1 squad.
Golden Plains has continued its success with a 17-3 regular season mark, including nine straight victories to end the year. GP lost twice to Wichita County and once at Quinter. Those are ranked teams in Class 2A and Class 1A, Division I respectively. Golden Plains finished the winter fifth in the coaches’ rankings. Only Hanover and Lebo, both 20-0, achieved better records in 1A, Division II.
Golden Plains was again undefeated in the Western Kansas Liberty League regular season. GP won the WKLL midseason tournament for the sixth straight year. As well, Golden Plains finished 3-0 against St. Francis and Wallace County. Those teams are a combined 29-7 when not facing the Bulldogs.
“That was the talk all summer,” Christensen told SIK. “What are you going to do without a Miller on the floor now? And I said, ‘Well, we are still going to play hard, we are going to outwork you, if that leads to winning – and it pretty well has. We have a system, and we have tradition now, that’s worth a lot.”
Additionally, Golden Plains became one of several teams to withstand the graduation of a KBCA all-state player – and still win at least 85 percent of its games this year. From 6A to 1A, 23 teams had at least player in the KBCA all-state game last summer. Those 23 squads went a combined 461-84, per SIK research.
This season, those squads are 288-162. Wamego, Smith Center, Pretty Prairie, Golden Plains, Wellington, Cheney and Little River were the only seven of the 23 to capture 85 percent of its games. Several of those squads, especially Smith Center, Wellington and Little River, returned the bulk of its team.
Golden Plains has shirts that read: “play hard, play smart, play together, have fun.”
“They’ve saw what it takes, and they have done it over the summer … girls have improved immensely,” Christensen said.
This season, Christensen, a Golden Plains alum, went over 400 career varsity wins and 700 victories at all levels. GP is the sizable favorite in the Wheatland-Grinnell sub-state. Golden Plains has continued to play strong defense. Massey Ratings, which includes strength of schedule and quality of opponent, has the No. 85 defense for all classes, which is in the top 25 percent.
Golden Plains has four girls who consistently average nine to 11 points per game.
“Defensively, that’s where we are strong, and we talk about it every day,” Christensen said. “If we can keep the other team down, because we haven’t shot that well all season, even free throws or anything, so sometimes that’s why, sometimes it’s ugly basketball, but defense will win.”
In a 46-27 win against Hill City on Feb. 7, Fleckenstein tallied 15 points, Taylor had 12 and Hernandez delivered 11. Hernandez finished with nine rebounds. On Jan. 24, Taylor scored 16 against Quinter and Fleckenstein tallied 14.
“She has really raised her game and Breanna is still the defensive player, but we need her to score a little, and she knows and she tries. And there’s nights she does, but when she has to work as hard as she does on defense, I think that hurts her a little bit on the offensive end,” Christensen said. “And then our little sophomore has come along, the Hernandez girl, she is going to be a pretty good player. She is a little slight, a little thin, contact bothers her a little bit, but boy she is an athlete. She can shoot the ball.”
The Quinter loss dropped Golden Plains to 8-3. Christensen strongly believed the Quinter game was going to help GP possibly on another state run. He set a goal to finish at least 16-4.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen, I will be tickled pink what we lost (off) last season’s team,” Christensen said.
Instead, Golden Plains finished with nine straight wins. That included a 42-39 win against Rawlins County on Feb. 14. RC posted a 13-7 record.
“She gives us kind of that girl that can maybe get her own shot,” Christensen said. “Sidney can a little bit too, but Jordan can finish at the basket, maybe through some contact, get to the line, maybe hit the shot too. So she played well last year in the last 2-3 weeks, and at the state tournament – she was a difference maker for us in the state tournament – so she has been here, too, so I am really pleased with where we are at.”
Buzzer-Beating Teams – Wellington boys with historic victory
Three boys’ squads have enjoyed tremendous success with buzzer-beating shots and moments: 2A Thomas More Prep-Marian, 3A Perry-Lecompton and 4A Wellington.
Wellington is 13-6 after a 50-49 win versus Wichita Collegiate on Tuesday. Wellington made a buzzer-beating shot by Brody Weir under the basket just before the horn sounded.
Additionally, Wellington beat Cheney, 56-53, on Dec. 5 on a buzzer-beater. Wellington has a seven-win improvement from last winter. Wellington had lost 25 straight to Collegiate dating back before 2011, per MaxPreps archives. It’s believed the first time Wellington has ever beaten Collegiate. In January, Collegiate defeated Wellington by 22.
Perry-Lecompton boys finished a 16-4 regular season, including a 10-1 stretch to finish the year. On Tuesday, P-L beat Holton, 54-53, on a buzzer-beater by Kamryn Kaniper.
On Feb. 7, he also hit a buzzer-beater in a 60-57 win against Royal Valley. P-L has a plus-six win improvement from last winter. This marks the Kaws’ most wins since ’18-19.
TMP, as SIK detailed earlier this season, had won three January games on buzzer-beater/no time left shots from Kade Harris. The Monarchs had another last-second win with a 61-60 win at Great Bend on Feb. 14. On Friday, TMP won by five at Norton. The Monarchs are 18-2 and have won 17 in a row.
TMP has wins by two, two, two, one and five points this season.
Big seasons from boys’ teams at December Hays City Shoot-Out
In the last two winters, multiple teams have gone on massive winning streaks after the season-opening December Hays City Shoot-Out. Several coaches told SIK this year that the field was highly challenging. Since the tournament, a couple of boys’ squads have gone on remarkable runs:
Seven of the eight teams will finish with winning records. Those seven teams are a combined 86-24 since the Shoot-Out.
TMP 1-2 at Shoot-Out (by far the smallest KSHSAA school at the Shoot-Out), 17-0 since
Hugoton 1-2 at Shoot-Out, 17-0 since
Olathe West 3-0 at Shoot-Out, 12-4 since
Lawrence Free State 2-1 at Shoot-Out, 9-6 since
Manhattan 2-1 at Shoot-Out, 10-6 since
Hays High 2-1 at Shoot-Out, 9-6 since
Life Prep (non-KSHSAA), 1-2 at Shoot-Out, 12-2 since
Sub-State teams looking to end long state droughts
KSHSAA announced sub-state brackets for the smaller classes on Wednesday. Notable teams have a chance to end a long state drought. The following squads have a high seed in its sub-state:
La Crosse (15-5, 1A-1) – leads Quinter sub-state, no state berths since 1991, per KS historian Carol Swenson
Southern Cloud (9-11, 1A-II) – leads Burrton sub-state; co-op of Miltonvale and Glasco. Miltonvale only state berth in 1921; Glasco in 1988.
Stafford (15-5, 1A-II) – leads Western Plains sub-state, no berths since 1947
Bird City-Cheylin (14-4, 1A-II) – second in Grainfield sub-state, no berths since 1980
Ellinwood (19-1, 2A) – leads Sterling sub-state, no berths since 1984
Southeast-Cherokee (16-4, 2A) – leads Erie sub-state, no berths since 2005
Chase County (17-3, 2A) – leads Hillsboro sub-state, no berths since 1993
Bishop Ward (17-3, 3A) – leads Perry-Lecompton sub-state, one berth since 1986
Wilson (14-6, 1A-2) – leads Western Plains sub-state; last season for the school before school closure
Northern Valley (13-7, 1A-2) – second in Tescott sub-state, one all-time appearance in 1994
St. Francis (16-3, 1A-I) – second in Quinter sub-state, one all-time appearance in 1981
Bluestem (15-5, 2A) – second in Belle Plaine sub-state, one all-time appearance in 1996
Riverside (17-3, 2A) – leads Horton sub-state; Riverside has never made state; Wathena had three state appearances: ’81, ’82 and ’01.
Wichita County (16-4, 2A) – leads Syracuse sub-state, last appearance in ’01.
Shawnee Mission South (19-0, 6A) – No. 1 team in 6A, first berth since ’12.
3A Girls Continues on Record Pace
A couple of weeks ago, SIK noted the remarkable season from 3A girls. This has continued. If the top seeds win in each sub-state, Eureka (18-2), Santa Fe Trail (17-2), Cherryvale (16-4), Goodland (20-0), Cheney (18-2), Atchison County (19-1), Silver Lake (18-1) and Phillipsburg (20-0), those teams have combined for 12 losses.
Five sub-states have a No. 2 seed with four losses or fewer.
From ’19-22, no girls classification had fewer than 14 losses among the eight state qualifying teams.
Biggest Improvements – from preseason Kansas Basketball Coaches Association rankings to the last rankings released Tuesday
6A: No. 1 Shawnee Mission South (unranked preseason), No. 2 Derby (No. 10 preseason), No. 5 Wichita South (unranked), No. 8 Liberal (unranked), No. 9 Lawrence (unranked)
5A: No. 1 Topeka Seaman (No. 9 preseason), No. 6 Bonner Springs (unranked), No. 7 Hutchinson (unranked), No. 8 Goddard-Eisenhower (unranked), No. 9 KC Piper (unranked)
4A: No. 5 Independence (unranked), No. 7 Fort Scott (unranked)
3A: No. 5 Atchison County (unranked), No. 9 Cimarron (unranked)
2A: No. 5 Riverside (unranked), No. 6 Mission Valley (unranked), No. 7 Hoxie (unranked)
1A-1: No. 4 Frankfort (unranked), No. 7 Madison (unranked), No. 8 Quinter (unranked)
1A-2: No. 3 Bucklin (unranked), No. 4 Beloit-St. John’s/Tipton (unranked)
6A: No. 4 Garden City (unranked), No. 8 Mill Valley (unranked), No. 9 Washburn Rural (unranked)
5A: No. 2 Hutchinson (unranked)
4A: No. 1 Atchison (unranked), No. 6 Circle (unranked), No. 7 Baldwin (unranked), No. 8 Chanute (unranked), No. 9 Augusta (unranked),
3A: No. 4 Haven (No. 10 preseason), No. 7 Marysville (unranked), No. 8 Colby (unranked), No. 9 Bishop Ward (unranked), No. 10 Perry-Lecompton (unranked)
2A; No. 1 Lyndon (No. 7 preseason), No. 4 Wichita Independent (No. 10 preseason), No. 8 Sterling (unranked)
1A-1: No. 5 Blue Valley (unranked), No. 7 Elyria Christian (unranked), No. 8 Osborne (unranked)
1A-2: No. 3 Axtell (unranked), No. 6 Lebo (unranked), No. 7 Stafford (unranked), No. 8 Cheylin (unranked), No. 9 South Central (unranked),
Notable League champions; Goodland girls with Kansas’ longest current win streak
Rexford-Golden Plains girls – Western Kansas Liberty League undefeated regular season and tournament champions
Shawnee Mission South – Sunflower League undefeated girls
Sabetha boys – Big 7 champions. 20-0, 14-0 in league play
Maur Hill boys – Northeast Kansas League, 16-4, 14-2 in league play
Garden City boys – Western Athletic Conference
Thomas More Prep-Marian boys – Mid-Continent League (back-to-back undefeated titlists)
Phillipsburg girls – Mid-Continent League undefeated; first 20-0 record in school history
Marysville boys – North Central Kansas League, 18-2, 10-0; best regular season record since 1990
Southeast of Saline girls – NCAA league co-champions (sharing with Minneapolis), 17-3, 6-2 in league
St. Francis girls – Northwest Kansas League champions, ties school record with 16 regular season wins
Hillsboro girls – Undefeated Central Kansas League champions
Santa Fe Trail girls – Back-to-back Pioneer League champions
Goodland girls – GWAC undefeated champions, winning GWAC for first time in school history; currently 33 straight wins, longest for all classes boys or girls
Sunflower League leaders
Entering Wednesday, Shawnee Mission South clinched the league championship with a 19-0 record, 12-0 in conference play. Entering Tuesday, Shawnee Mission East’s Abigail Long led the league with 21.9 points per game, per updated notes from Sunflower Smack, which regularly covers the league. Long has committed to Yale.
SM West’s S’Mya Nichols, a top-100 recruit and Kansas signing, has 19.5 points, six rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals per game. She is second in points, third in assists and third in steals.
SM South’s Camryn Smith has 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.8 steals. Smith is fourth in scoring, second in assists, fourth in rebounding and fourth in steals.
ONW’s Sky Pierce recorded block No. 61, which broke the school single season record. Pierce, a junior, is a Nebraska volleyball commit.
G-E’s Brenley Cunningham paced the conference with 3.6 steals a contest. SMNW’s Paige Cheffey has 9.1 rebounds per game.