Ryan stays undefeated: Lions top Velva in battle of Region 6 power teams

In what could be a preview of the Region 6 tournament championship next month, the Bishop Ryan girls basketball team got by upset-minded Velva 50-42 Monday.

In an uncharacteristically sloppy and low-scoring game for both teams, the top-ranked Lions (12-0) did enough to hold off the rival Aggies in a non-district contest. Ryan turned the ball over 28 times and Velva didn’t fare much better, throwing the ball away on 22 occasions.

“We were just out of sync tonight with what we were doing away from the ball as much as with the ball,” Ryan coach Julie Stewart said.

The Lions looked to break open the game in the first few minutes, jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead. But then the turnovers started mounting and Velva clawed its way back into the game. The Aggies (9-2) didn’t allow Ryan to play the uptempo offense the Lions are accustomed to.

Errant passes and inconsistent ballhandling resulted in just 43 total first-half points, with Ryan leading 27-16. In Saturday’s win over Bottineau, the Lions scored 60 points in the opening half.

“The biggest thing for us is eliminating transition buckets for them,” Velva coach Chris Braaten said. “They run the floor so well and we had to make sure that they had to earn everything. We got in their face and just played a lot of pressure man-to-man defense. Luckily, they threw the ball away a few times.”

Although Ryan’s offense was held to its lowest total of the season, the Lions shot 45 percent from the field and 50 percent from inside the arc. The Lions’ couldn’t find the touch from behind the arc as junior Anika Rovig hit the team’s only 3-pointer of the game. Rovig finished with 11 points.

“It’s good to have games like that,” Rovig said. “Velva’s a great team. They’re hard workers. It kind of exposes things that we have to work on and hopefully get better throughout the season.”

The Lions failed to hit a field goal in the fourth quarter for the first time this season due to the countless number of turnovers committed in the final eight minutes. They did hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final frame to fend off a late charge by the Aggies and remain undefeated.

“It shows us we have to get back to work,” Stewart said. “We just kinda got in a rush and I think we need to understand that after we put out that kind of effort defensively, we just have to get down at the other end and execute our half-court offense. It’s not always going to happen in one pass.”

Aggressive man-to-man defense allowed the Lions to keep the Aggies at arm’s reach down the stretch while Ryan continually threw the ball away. The Lions made Velva work to get open on every pass, making the Aggies’ legs heavy when they needed them the most. Outside of senior forward Jaylen Newman, Velva couldn’t get a shot to go down. Newman finished with a game-high 19 points and scored eight of the team’s 13 fourth-quarter points.

The Aggies shot 33 percent from the field and possessions were at a premium. Ryan sophomore forwards Hannah Stewart and Gabbie Bohl limited Velva’s second-chance opportunities as the 6-foot-2 duo outrebounded the entire Aggie team. Stewart finished with a game-high 13 rebounds and a team-high 17 points and made a big impact on defense with nine steals. Bohl also recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

“Both teams played hard and each had their own ups and downs,” Rovig said. “A win’s a win, I guess.”

Velva hosts Drake-Anamoose today at 5:45 p.m. Ryan travels to Des Lacs-Burlington on Thursday.