Golden Plains girls earn third-place finish
By NICK SCHWIEN
There were two main thoughts for Rexford-Golden Plains girls' coach Parker Christensen entering Saturday's game -- get out to a good start and limit the opposing team's secondary scorers.
The Bulldogs did both while claiming a 77-67 win in the third-place game of the Class 1A Division II state tournament at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"We thought probably the first team that was excited to play in this game would jump out early and be able to hang on," Christensen said.
Both teams were coming off difficult losses in Friday's semifinals. Golden Plains lost a late lead to fall to Norwich, while Ingalls ran away from Wilson to reach the title game.
But Golden Plains (22-3) was able to strike early, building an 18-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"It was tough, having not lost since the beginning in Castle Rock," said Golden Plains senior Angela Ritter. "But state is what we worked for, and that's how it went. We came back in our last game and did it."
So the good start was there. The only other part was limiting Wilson's other players while senior Karlie Steinle got her points.
Steinle, one of the state's top players who was averaging 27 points per game, struggled in the Dragons' semifinal loss a day earlier.
On Saturday, she made up for it, exploding for 42 points -- including 19 free throws. Those 19 makes from the line were a new single-game state record in all classes -- the old record of 18 was held by three players ranging from 1A to 6A. She also had 18 rebounds.
Steinle also finished with 35 made free throws for the tourney, breaking the state record in all classes for most in a three-game tournament.
"She got to the line a ton of times," Christensen said. "But she knows how to use her body and drive. To push a little bit here. To jump into you a little bit there to get to the line. She does a good job."
An emotional Steinle, who averaged 25 points per game at state, said breaking the record was special.
"It's awesome. It's just a privilege to be here," she said.
"It was my last game of high school. And I wanted to give it my best and just went out and played."
While Steinle did her best to keep the Dragons (21-4) in the game, the rest of the team struggled, accounting for only 25 points while making eight of 51 shots.
Meanwhile, Golden Plains had three players score in double figures, paced by junior Jordan Christensen. The coach's daughter tallied 26 points and hit all four of the team's 3-pointers.
Ritter and junior Hailee Spresser each finished with 15 as the Bulldogs shot 46 percent from the field.
"We went out strong," Ritter said. "We knew we had to do that. The last game, we came out hard and then kind of lost it. So we had to finish this one up."
Despite Steinle getting to the line often in the second half for Wilson, the Dragons never really threatened.
The lead grew to as many as 20 before the Dragons fought back in the final period. But Wilson never came closer than eight points in the waning seconds.
"That was our goal, to get here and stay more than one day," the Golden Plains coach said. "We accomplished that. We lose an awfully good senior, but we've got girls who have been waiting their time to get some of those minutes, too. Things have to fall into place for you to get down here. We know how hard we have to work, and that will be our goal next year."