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Golden Plains girls missing players, still solid

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

QUINTER -- Simply from a win-loss standpoint, nothing separates the Rexford-Golden Plains girls' basketball team from last season. In 2012-13, the Bulldogs opened 2-2 with a victory against Ransom-Western Plains, a first-round win versus Atwood in the Castle Rock Classic, and then losses to Ellis and Wheatland-Grinnell for a fourth-place finish. Then, Golden Plains won 19 straight contests, finished 21-3 and took third in Class 1A, Division II.

A year later, Golden Plains again opened 2-2. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 2 in the classification, defeated Western Plains, earned a first-round victory against Atwood, lost to Ellis and then fell to Dighton to finish in fourth place at Castle Rock.

"That's our goal, we want to get back (to state)," Golden Plains coach Parker Christensen said. "We struggled, we only won one game here last year, because it's a difficult tournament. If you can get two wins here, you are doing a good job, but we want to be playing our best toward the middle of February."

However, from a personnel and statistical standpoint, much has changed compared to last winter. First, point guard Angela Ritter graduated. Second, 5-foot-11 senior forward Kylie Jones, who averaged eight points and 7.3 rebounds a game, decided to forgo basketball and focus on club volleyball and classes this winter. Jones recently signed with Barton County Community College for volleyball.

"She kind of talked about it during volleyball, that she wasn't (playing basketball)," Christensen said. "So it wasn't really a shock to us. We'll coach the 12 that we have, and we'll do the best that we can."

Third, senior Jordan Christensen, the coach's daughter and a second team all-state selection, led the team with 12.9 points a year ago. She also collected nine rebounds a game and shot 42 of 115 (37 percent) from long range. Christensen had 40 points in the first four contests last season. This year, she had eight against Ellis and eight versus Dighton.

"She started a little bit slow," coach Christensen said. "She is kind of in a little shooting slump, but she is going to have to shoot herself out of it. That's what you will do if you are a shooter. But she is doing a lot of other good things. Hopefully, we will get two or three a game that will be in double figures, and it doesn't have to be her all the time."

Against Ellis, Christensen passed up some shots and was 2 of 12 from the field. Golden Plains didn't sink a trey. Offensively, Golden Plains has slipped considerably from a year ago. At the 2012 Castle Rock, the Bulldogs had an average score of 54.3-50.7. This season, Golden Plains averaged 40 points a contest and allowed 46.3.

"She is an unselfish player, and she wants to hit the open person, and we want her to hit them, too, but sometimes she needs to take a little more aggressiveness on herself, especially when the time of the game calls for it," Coach Christensen said.

Christensen tallied 18 versus Ellis her junior year, but had just one field goal in the first half Friday.

"We knew she was a good player," Ellis coach Perry Mick said. "Our girls cover pretty well in the zone, and we were aware of her, and we knew she was a good shooter, and so we tried to cover her when she got the ball."

Jones and Christensen each played in the Northwest Kansas all-star volleyball match and Jones collected honorable mention all-state honors from the state volleyball coaches. Jones' club coach is good friends with the Barton coach.

"In middle school, I was a big basketball player," Jones said. "Basketball was the big thing, and then I got in high school, and I really fell in love with volleyball."

Jones has played club volleyball out of Colorado Springs and Denver, a season that runs from the beginning of January until late April/early May. It's travel that few area kids do for volleyball.

"You pay a lot of money for five tournaments and you practice for four or five months and you just get five tournaments," she said. "You have to really love it, to be something that you want to do. But it is a real passion of mine, and I have been thankful to have people that support me through it."

Jones is taking a heavy course load of college classes. Plus, she has her club volleyball schedule.

"I didn't think I could handle doing both sports with all of my college classes that I am taking this year," she said.

In the past, Jones had gotten hurt, including sophomore year, when she led Golden Plains with 10.1 points and 8.6 rebounds.

"I didn't want to chance getting hurt in basketball again and harming my chance of getting my school paid for through volleyball," she said.

Since her sophomore year, Jones has done exercises to keep her knees in good shape. At Castle Rock, Jones served as a Bulldog cheerleader as Golden Plains went 1-2.

"It's something I don't want to do again, so I am definitely taking care of them, making wise choices and working out correctly," she said.