By William /

STAFFORD – In a game where both teams struggled shooting, gave up too many turnovers and personal fouls, the Elyria Christian girls came up on the short end of the score by just two points, losing to Central Christian, 28-26, on Saturday in the championship game of their Class 1A Division II sub-state.

With the loss, the Elyria Christian girls finish the 2021-22 season with a record of 14-8.

“It’s always hard for the season to come to an end, but I could not have been prouder of our girls tonight and all season,” noted Lady Eagle head coach Greg Fields. “They went up against one of the top teams in the state, and never backed down. We played our hearts out tonight and never showed any fear or intimidation.”

With Elyria struggling to score early, Central Christian got the upper hand and held a six-point, 8-2, lead at the end of the first quarter and a five-point, 12-7 advantage at the halftime break.

Coming out of the break, the Lady Eagles finally got some offense going and wiped out the Central Christian lead, leaving the two teams tied at 15-15 heading into the final eight minutes of the game where Central Christian made just enough free throws to nip the Lady Eagles by the final two-point margin.

Defense was the name of the game as neither team shot well from the field with Central Christian hitting just 27% of their shots while the Lady Eagles hit on 28%. Free throws made the difference in the game as Central Christian went to the charity stripe for twenty-seven attempts and made 11 while Elyria only had eight trips to the free throw line, making six.

Speaking of the team defense, Coach Fields added, “Defensively, they played their best game of the year. We ran a box and one for the first time this season and Alexus (Swenson) did an outstanding job shutting down Central Christian’s exceptionally good point guard, holding her to just three points from the free throw line. KiLynn (Starburg) was also very active on defense tonight with four steals and five deflections. She was in foul trouble most of the second half but still did a wonderful job continuing to play solid defense. Allie (Stone) got the team fired up with a couple of big blocks.”

Despite a height difference, Elyria did win the rebounding battle which amazed Coach Fields since the Lady Eagles gave up a lot of height to Central Christian.

Ryland Hawkinson just missed a double-double with nine points while pulling down 10 rebounds to go with three blocked shots and a pair of steals.

Julia Allen had one of the best games of her career by grabbing six rebounds to go with six points as she filled in well for an ailing Kylee Penner, who was still hampered by a weeklong illness.

KiLynn Starburg may not have scored, but her defense was visible as she led Elyria with four steals while Allie Stone stole three balls and dished out a team high three assists.

As for Kylee Penner playing despite having been sick early in the week, Coach Fields commented in his game reflections, “Kylee showed so much heart tonight as she was still weak from her recent illness. She played very limited minutes, but she was a spark for the team just as she has been for the last four years. We ran a play for her to shoot a three towards the beginning of the second quarter and she drained it.”

The game was the final Lady Eagle appearance for seniors Kylee Penner, Olivia Clark, and KiLynn Starburg.

SCORING:                 1          2          3          4          FINAL

LADY EAGLES           2          5          8          11       26

Central Christian     8          4          3          13       28

Central Christian Team Stats: FG 8/30; 3-PTR 1/3; FT 11/27; AST 0; REBS 22; TO 18; STL 9; BLK 2; PF 16.


ELYRIA CHRISTIAN LADY EAGLES INDIVIDUAL STAT LEADERS: Scoring (26 total points): Ryland Hawkinson – 9; Julia Allen – 6; Alexus Swenson – 3; Kylee Penner – 3; Olivia Clark – 3; Allie Stone – 2. 3-Pointers Made (2): Penner, Clark – 1. Assists: Stone – 3; Allen – 2; Hawkinson, Penner, KiLynn Starburg – 1. Rebounds: Hawkinson – 10; Allen – 6; Swenson – 3; Penner, Clark, Starburg – 2. Steals: Starburg – 4; Stone – 3; Hawkinson – 2; Swenson – 1. Blocked Shots: Hawkinson – 3; Penner, Stone – 2.

{William is a free-lance writer covering McPherson County Activities – he can be reached at}