Sweet, sweet send-off

Five-foot-6 Macy Christianson soared to swipe the opening tipoff for Bishop Ryan and Maddie Lipp drained a 3-pointer a few minutes later. Not the typical start for the Lions, but the result ended all the same.

Ryan coach Julie Stewart started her five seniors – Anika Rovig, Laurin Leidholt, Sydney Landsiedel, Christianson and Lipp – a nod to Senior Night. The quintet, three of whom are typically reserves, scored the first nine points of the top-ranked Lions’ 85-24 trouncing of Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky on Tuesday. The Lions’ closed out the regular season at 19-0 and stretched their winning streak to 48 games.

Selecting a jumper for the tipoff, Stewart said, was a no-brainer.

“Macy’s a ballerina, so we figured she’s done a few leaps in her life so I thought she could get up pretty high,” Stewart said with a laugh.

Added Christianson, also a volleyball and softball player: “I definitely think that dance has helped with my athleticism a little bit. I’ve been dancing since I was 4.”

From Christianson’s opening tip to the final, merciful buzzer, Ryan held the momentum.

Rovig knocked down a pair of treys and Lipp followed with her trifecta before TL-M-M closed to 9-4.

“Obviously we had five guards out there, so it was a little bit awkward, but they know what they can do well and they did some great things,” Stewart said.

Then the real show began.

With 4:06 left in the first quarter, 6-2 junior forwards Hannah Stewart and Gabbie Bohl, along with guards Maddie Wald and Sheyenne Schmidt, subbed in. Those four and Rovig jump-started a 22-0 run over the next 6:24 for a 31-4 Ryan advantage. The Lions forced 11 turnovers in that spurt, and induced 20 of TL-M-M’s 29 giveaways in the first half.

“You cannot take that team on individually,” Julie Stewart said. “We’re having some really good defense as a group. When you can start to gel and mesh together, that’s when you’re gonna get a lot done.”

The Trojans (7-10) trimmed Ryan’s lead to 31-8 on baskets by sophomore Mariah Sellon and eighth-grader Brooklynn Anderson before the Lions put the pedal to the metal again.

Wald, a 5-5 junior, drilled two 3s and banked home two layups to spark a 16-0 run over the next four minutes. Wald registered 19 points, five steals and four assists for the Lions, who held a 49-10 lead at the break.

Hannah Stewart recorded 14 of her game-high 22 points in the first half. She also finished with nine rebounds, including five offensive.

Out of the intermission, Ryan picked up where it left off, scoring eight of the first 10 points. The Lions pushed their lead to 78-18 with 6:33 remaining before Stewart sent her five seniors in together for five final minutes on their home floor. They left at the 1:19 mark to a standing ovation.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Rovig, a three-year starter. “I’ve been playing so long in that gym and when you’re younger you don’t really realize. You think, ‘Oh, I’ll never be a senior.’ It seems so far ahead. Once the night comes, it really hits you.

“It’s really emotional, but it’s a good emotion.”

Ryan’s senior class has accomplished plenty on its home floor. In fact, those five haven’t lost at home since Feb. 5, 2011. On any court the past three seasons, they’ve won 72 of their past 74 games, with the last 14 wins coming by 42 points or more.

“These kids, they’re so fun to work with,” Stewart said. “I’ve just been lucky. I know I’ve been lucky and I hope the culture they’ve established here continues for years to come.”

Rovig and Bohl finished with double-doubles. Rovig had 11 points and 10 assists, while Bohl notched 14 points and 12 boards.

Leidholt had six points and six steals, Landsiedel dished out four assists, Lipp had four points and Christianson tallied an assist and a rebound.

Sellon paced TL-M-M with eight points on 4-of-8 shooting. The Trojans travel to Grant County on Thursday.

The Lions next play at the District 12 tournament on Feb. 28. They own the top seed and will meet Kenmare.

Ryan Holmgren covers Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.