Skyline lost 55-19 to Central Plains in the Sub-State semi-finals at Claflin on Friday.

Strong chemistry and squelching man-to-man defense are hallmarks of the Central Plains boys’ basketball program under coach Brett Rolfs. In the last four years, CP has averaged more than 20 wins a season with a second and third-place finishes at the Class 2A state tournament.

This year, the Oilers, with five of their top-six players returning from last year, has improved its teamwork and defense. Central Plains, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, rolled over Pratt-Skyline in a 55-19 sub-state semifinal contest Friday.

“We are kind of known as being a little strange,” senior Alex Barton said. “We have this quirky bond between us, and it sometimes shows on the court as well, and we just all love each other and there’s just a lot of trust between us.”

The Oilers allowed more than 45 points just once all winter, in a 64-54 win against Macksville on Jan. 5. Friday marked a season low for points allowed for the CP defense.

“Most definitely, our team defense has gotten a lot better,” Rolfs said. “We were just a little bit younger and greener last year and had a lot of guys in roles they hadn’t been in before. We progressed a lot from the beginning of the year to end of the year last year, and of course that just carried over, and they’ve bought in.”

CP bumped to 22-0 and went on to down Macksville in the Sub-State final to print out their ticket to State.

“They just don’t let you make mistakes,” Skyline coach Kenny Eddy said. “It’s a great program they’ve got here, and it goes all the way down to their bench. Everything’s fundamental about them. ... No one tries to play outside of themselves. It’s incredible.”

The Oilers led 14-9 at the end of the first quarter before a 14-0 run started the second quarter. CP was ahead 33-11 at halftime and had a running clock in the fourth quarter.

"We started playing better defense," Barton said. "We started locking down a little better, started not to let them dribble-drive as much, and then I'd say we went back kind of to our bread and butter. Right at the beginning, we kind of lost it, we tried to do a little too much, and then we finally just got it inside and went back to what we do best."

CP moved the ball quickly and crisply and finished with just six turnovers. It also marked one of the Oilers' top defensive performances of the winter, the first time they had held a team under 20 points in the regular season.

Notwithstanding the final game’s disappointment, Skyline’s boys had a fine campaign at 17-5.