Varsity Basketball

Moment of the Year: Garden Plain captures elusive state championship

The Garden Plain girls basketball team
The Garden Plain girls basketball team Courtesy of Garden Plain athletics

Varsity Kansas has introduced a new series, Moment of the Year. The series will highlight the top moment or performance from the 2017-18 high school sports season for each of the Wichita-area schools. And now, the Garden Plain Owls.

Garden Plain used to be a basketball school.

The Owls won seven state championships from 1973 to 2001. Since then, the cupboard has been bare. But that changed in 2018 as the Garden Plain girls basketball team won the Class 3A state championship with a 49-39 win against Royal Valley.

The win capped a 23-1 season, the only loss was to Conway Springs. The game after, the Owls beat Douglass by 41.

Momentum toward a title, or at least a deep postseason run, had been building at Garden Plain. Stuck in a brutal sub-state region with Conway Springs, Cheney and others, coach Kody Kasselman said no team is going to win that tournament every year.

But the Owls have been one of the favorites to make it to state each of the past four years with a combined 82-12 record over that time. In 2018, Garden Plain made it through with a sub-state title. It was the Owls second appearance since 2013.

Although Garden Plain won by 10 in the state final, the Owls trailed by seven going into the fourth quarter. They scored four straight to open the final 10 minutes, and Abby Gordon scored a three-pointer to tie the score at 33. It was her only bucket of the game.

Garden Plain's leader, senior Taylor Joplin, finished her career with poise. Joplin had been called upon since she was a freshman to come through in big moments. As a ninth-grader, she hit a game-tying three-pointer in the sub-state final to send the game to overtime.

The 2018 title game didn't have those theatrics, but Joplin finished her career with a game-high 21 points and a spot on the Eagle's All-Metro Girls Basketball Team.

Garden Plain's Taylor Joplin
Taylor Joplin, a Garden Plain senior girls basketball player. Fernando Salazar File photo

Other Key Moments

  • Garden Plain boys track and field team finishes runner-up in Class 3A at the Kansas high school state meet. The Owls had seven top five finishes.
  • Garden Plain senior Sam Thimmesch clinches a state championship in the boys 3A shot put with a 56-foot-.5 toss. He beat out Horton's Connor Winter by more than three feet.
  • Owl senior Mercedes Gassmann wins the girls 3A 100-meter dash. Her time of 12.25 beat out Council Grove's Lauren Carlson by more than two tenths of a second for a state title.
  • Garden Plain's 4x100-meter relay team wins the girls 3A state championship. Claire Clark, Macy Catlin, Nikole Puetz and Gassmann won it at 50.06, just two hundreths ahead of Norton.
  • Andale/Garden Plain clinches a spot in the 4A-Division I softball tournament with a sub-state title. The Indians finished the season 18-5 with a loss to Tonganoxie in the quarterfinals.
  • Jonny Becker finishes runner-up in the boys 3A javelin at 187-8, less than a foot behind a state title.
  • Nicholas Dooley comes third in the boys 3A discus at 146-4. He also fourth in the shot put at 49.4.
  • The Garden Plain girls 4x400-meter relay team of Nikole Puetz, Natasha Dooley, Alli Puetz and Clark finishes fourth at 4:10.47.
  • Jared Becker finishes fourth in the boys 110-meter hurdles at 15.08 and fifth in the 300-meter hurdles at 39.92.
  • Claire Clark earns a fifth place finish in the 300-meter hurdles at 47.91.
  • Dylan Dreiling comes fifth in the high jump at J6-2.

Read Other Schools' Moments