Girls Basketball: Panthers face Lions in final
Bishop Ryan’s girls basketball team left no doubt that it intends to defend its state title.
The top-ranked Lions scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter to regain momentum and slam the door on District 11 champion Rugby.
Paced by seniors Gabbie Bohl, Hannah Stewart and Maddie Wald, Ryan finished off a 65-34 victory over the Panthers on Thursday night at the Minot Municipal Auditorium to clinch its fourth consecutive Region 6 tournament title.
For the fourth time in as many years, the Lions (23-1) advanced to the Class B state tournament, with this year’s event beginning March 5 at the Minot State Dome.
“I’m excited. This is their fourth state tournament,” Ryan coach Julie Stewart said. “They’ve earned it. We just want to go back and refocus and try to learn from this game and the previous tournaments and get prepared for state.”
Wald, a 5-foot-6 point guard, scored 10 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter. She reeled off the first eight points of the final frame to push the Lions’ lead to 55-27. A pair of free throws by Hannah Stewart gave the two-time defending state champions their first 30-point lead.
“I wanted to shut them down and show them that they weren’t going to come back,” said Wald, who added nine rebounds. “I hadn’t really been doing much on offense all night, but I worked hard on defense to get some steals so I could convert on the offensive end.”
Said Julie Stewart: “It’s been a part of her game all year. When she gets on a roll, it just seems to come over and over and over again. She’s just a great defender.”
Rugby (20-4) used a 5-2 spurt to pull within 20 at the end the third quarter, giving its crowd some life.
But Ryan forced turnovers on the Panthers’ first five possessions of the fourth, allowing the Lions to stymie any glimmer of hope Rugby may have had.
Relying primarily on a man-to-man defense, the Lions induced 26 Panther turnovers against six assists.
“You just don’t want to give them hope,” Julie Stewart said. “I told them it’s going to be on the defensive end, and that allowed for some nice run-outs, transition (buckets). … It definitely started on the defensive end to get that run going.”
The Lions had similar success to start the second half as Rugby committed four straight turnovers out of the break while Ryan put together a 12-1 run for a 39-14 lead.
Ryan got off to a sluggish start, trailing as late as 6-5, but ran off 10 consecutive points to end the first quarter with a 15-5 lead. A late 8-0 flurry in the second quarter pushed the Lions’ cushion to 27-10. That came as Rugby turned it over six straight times before Darby Deckert’s 3-pointer from the left wing 13 seconds before halftime pulled the Panthers within 27-13.
Junior guard Shea Heidlebaugh scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-16 shooting to pace Rugby.
Hannah Stewart – named the region’s senior athlete of the year – tallied 18 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double, while Bohl made 9 of 13 shots to finish with a team-high 19 points.
The Lions held a 35-26 edge on the glass.
Now, Ryan turns its focus to the Class B state tournament draw, hoping to become the second team in the event’s history to win three consecutive titles.
“I’m really proud of our team for four whole years of working so hard,” Wald said. “We (Ryan’s four seniors) finally achieved our goal of getting to state every year. I’m excited to go to state and see what we can do this year. Hopefully it turns out like the last two.”
Ryan Holmgren is the Sports Editor at the Minot Daily News. He covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren. This article previously appeared in the Minot Daily News
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