Ellis girls ready for Bramlage
By CONOR NICHOLL
Ellis High School girls' basketball coach Perry Mick always wants his Railroaders to play their best basketball late in the season.
"We don't want to kind of be heading downhill toward the end of the season," Mick said. "We want to keep some excitement for the end. We try to not stress really hard a lot of wins early on. If they come, that's great. But we really want to build to this point. I think we have been pretty successful at that this year."
The Railers struggled some early, but haven't lost since a 49-34 defeat to Class 3A Phillipsburg in the Mid-Continent League tournament championship game in mid-January. Ellis was dominant last week at the Class 2A Oberlin sub-state with a 46-14 victory against Hill City and a 55-42 win versus Oakley. Ellis led Oakley 34-13 at halftime and nearly had a running clock in the fourth quarter.
The Railers return to state for the third time in Mick's 15 seasons and first since a school-best second-place finish in Class 2A in the 2008-09 season. Last year's squad went 20-3, but lost to eventual state champion Smith Center in the sub-state championship game.
"We thought we had a real good team last year," Mick said.
"It just so happened that we had the No. 1 team in the state in our sub-state, and fell a little bit short. We really wanted to get back here. There were times this year where we went through a little rough patch, but I thought we recovered nicely and are playing some of our best basketball right here at the end."
Ellis is the No. 6 seed at 19-4 and will play No. 3 Washington County (20-2) in the first round at 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday at Kansas State University's Bramlage Coliseum.
Washington Count, in state for the first time, had been 62-4 in the three previous seasons leading up to this year, but had lost in sub-state each time. Ellis' press and fast break style are longtime Mick trademarks and Washington County plays a similar game.
"They press, they try to fast break," Mick said. "From what I am hearing, they probably have more size than we do. Maybe not quite as much quickness as we do. Possibly not quite as much depth as we do. They do have a 6-1 girl who is going to be really tough inside and they have a couple of really good guards."
In the Oakley game, senior Kaleigh Soneson paced the team with 14 points, while juniors Stephanie Greenway and Sarah Mick had 13 and 10, respectively. Sophomore Alexcia Deutscher finished with nine. Deutscher leads the team with 14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 5.3 steals.
"That's something we talk about a lot," Mick said. "Alexcia is a great player, and I am sure she is going to be the focus of most other team's game plans about stopping her. It's been something we have stressed for a long time that Alexcia is not always going to score a gob of points, and we need other people."