Ryan Wins: Lions edge Central Cass for state title, Stewart MVP

Bishop Ryan star Hannah Stewart was saddled to the bench after fouling out.

Central Cass senior Hannah Breske seemingly couldn’t miss.

The Lions clung to a one-point lead with a minute remaining, and every sane person in the Fargodome expected all-tournament players Anika Rovig or Gabbie Bohl to take Ryan’s next shot.

Instead, the Lions’ lone senior, Quinn Harmon, slashed to the basket for a score and top-ranked Ryan held on to beat the Squirrels 54-50 Saturday in the Class B state basketball championship game. Ryan claimed its first girls basketball state title since 1993.

“It feels amazing,” Harmon said. “There’s no better feeling than this right now.”

“I knew Quinn’s first step is really quick,” Ryan coach Julie Stewart said. “I told her, ‘If you have a look and it’s there, attack that basket.’ “

It took clutch contributions from every Bishop Ryan player.

Hannah Stewart’s were the most obvious. Before fouling out, she recorded game highs of 27 points and 11 rebounds en route to tournament most valuable player honors.

The first time Stewart got the ball inside, 6-foot-3 Central Cass center Faith Dooley swatted her shot attempt. Unfazed, Stewart snared the rebound and put it back in.

For the rest of the night, Stewart essentially ignored Dooley’s towering presence and took the ball right to the hoop as if Central Cass’ center weren’t there.

It worked.

Stewart nearly recorded a double-double in the first half, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds as the Lions took a 26-22 lead into intermission.

After shooting just 2-of-11 in the opening half, Breske caught fire in the second.

The North Dakota State University commit rattled off the Squirrels’ first nine points of the third quarter, using her quick pull-up to launch jumpers over the Lion defense.

Breske led a 20-2 run lasting from the close of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth, ending with Central Cass ahead 42-34 with seven minutes, 12 seconds remaining. Breske hit five 3-pointers and finished with 26 points, and Dooley racked up 14 points and 11 boards.

“We know that teams are gonna have runs like that, so we just had to try to stay as calm as we can,” Harmon said. “If we get worked up against a team like this, you’re gonna lose everything.”

Stewart got to the line on back-to-back possessions and hit 3-of-4 free throws, then Rovig drilled back-to-back 3s. Stewart followed that up with a layup, and the Lions made more plays down the stretch to claim the victory.

Laurin Leidholt hit two key free throws for Ryan with 2:37 left, while Dooley and Breske each missed a pair in the final 67 seconds.

The Squirrels (24-4) had a chance to tie after Leidholt missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 19.9 seconds remaining, but Bohl picked off a lob pass intended for Dooley and hit 1-of-2 freebies to secure the championship.

As soon as the buzzer sounded, the Ryan student section flooded the floor and the players broke into celebratory tears. For the bench-tied Hannah Stewart, it was relief mixed with exultation.

“It was terrible not being out there to help my team, but they did a great job,” she said. “They pulled through. This is what we’ve been waiting for all season and it feels so good.”