Young Oakley girls squad picks up win to open season
By CONOR NICHOLL
OAKLEY -- Oakley High School girls' basketball coach Randall Rath constantly called out "don't foul, don't foul" during the Plainsmen's season-opening home contest Friday against Leoti-Wichita County.
Oakley, coming off back-to-back state tournament appearances and traditionally one of the state's strongest programs, has the least experienced squad in Rath's 21 years as head coach. The Plainsmen bring back one starter and had two seniors in the starting lineup.
Still, Oakley's defense, rebounding and ability to stay out of foul trouble helped the Plainsmen earn a 54-37 victory. Oakley committed just nine fouls, while Wichita Co. had 16.
"We practice that all the time," Rath said. "Our kids, I think have really bought into that. That's probably the No. 1 thing that we practice on these two and a half weeks.
"Trying to anticipate the pass and trying to be where the pass is received when it's caught, not after it's caught, and close out on the ball," he added. "Try to get our feet set. Like all coaches, it's the same thing."
The Indians had two players foul out, including 6-foot senior forward Nicole Huber, a strong shot blocker.
"In practice, we have been focusing more on our offense the past couple of days," Wichita Co. assistant coach Aimee Baker said. "...They weren't thinking about what they were doing, where their hands were going, if they were moving their feet."
Junior Laura Dennis, Oakley's lone returning starter, finished with 12 points. Senior Kyndal Maurath added 12 points, while sophomore Marlee Rath led all scorers with 15 points. Oakley outscored Wichita Co. in every quarter. Oakley trailed 6-5 with 65 seconds left in the first quarter, but went on a 13-0 run to take control. Junior Katie Bailey led Leoti with 13 points.
"I thought the kids did a really good job," coach Rath said. "Getting rid of the jitters earlier --- you could tell they were really nervous. We had the flu going around, which you can't make excuses, but we had about three kids about halfway there. I thought we got better as the game went."