Lockdown defense lifts Lions

Coupled with a dominant defensive performance, Bishop Ryan’s second-fewest point total still resulted in the usual outcome.

Playing without standout junior forward Gabbie Bohl, sidelined to rest her knees, for the second straight contest, the top-ranked Lions routed Des Lacs-Burlington 65-28 in the Region 6 tournament semifinals on Tuesday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium. They will play TGU at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Magic City Campus with a third consecutive state tournament berth on the line.

Ryan (24-0) has held 19 of its past 20 opponents to 40 points or less. The Lions have won their last 20 games by 37 points or more.

Winners of 53 straight, the Lions limited DL-B to 32 shots and just 28.1 percent shooting. The Lakers (11-12) committed 38 turnovers, including 24 in the first half and one on each of their first four possessions.

“Defense is what we take pride in,” Ryan junior forward Hannah Stewart said. “I think it’s kind of rewarding to see that turnover stat at the end of the game.

“We focus a lot on defense in practice because we know that’s what leads to our offense and scoring.”

Stewart swiped six steals to go with a game-high 27 points and seven rebounds. Classmate Maddie Wald tallied 17 points, eight steals and five boards to carry an offense that posted its lowest point total since its season opener on Dec. 13, when the Lions beat No. 2 Thompson 60-45.

Ryan, which averages a state-best 82.9 points per game, shot 41.3 percent from the field, making just 13 of 34 shots (38.2 percent) in the first half. The Lions scored 13 points off turnovers before heading to the locker room with a 32-8 lead.

“I think every team has those games where they’re just not shooting as well, and you can’t shoot great every game,” Wald said. “We as guards didn’t shoot very well, and with Gabbie out, it’s a little harder to score in the post with only Hannah.”

Wald converted 6 of 8 field goals, but the rest of Ryan’s guards made just 7 of 32 field goal attempts.

In the first 2:18 out of the break, the Lions dragged their feet, committing three of their 18 turnovers and two fouls. Ryan coach Julie Stewart called a timeout, but not to discuss Xs and Os.

“You just need to come out with some defensive energy and control the things you can control,” Stewart said. “You can’t always control the ball going through the hoop, but you can certainly control setting a good screen, making a good cut, making a good seal, defending, rebounding, getting in good position and just work together, show some patience and things are going to start to fall.”

With a renewed defensive focus – after allowing DL-B’s Brittany DeGree to score the first bucket of the third quarter – Ryan’s offense, in turn, showed its usual flow. The Lions mixed in 1-2-2 press, 2-3 zone, man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defenses to induce more points off turnovers. After uncontested layups fell, so did 3-pointers and elbow jumpers.

“When we’re not doing as well on offense, we really bring our energy to defense to get breakaway layups and fast breaks,” Wald said.

The Lions hit 8 of 12 shots en route to a 21-point fourth quarter.

After allowing 159 points in its first two meetings with Ryan, the Lakers displayed marked improvement defensively, especially with the 6-foot-2 Bohl on the bench. DL-B held a 34-33 advantage in rebounds.

“We made them shoot from the outside and their shots weren’t falling like they normally do,” DL-B coach Shawn Kuhnhenn said. “We worked hard, rebounded hard. I was just happy overall with our defensive effort.”

Senior guard Courtney Vogel chipped in 12 points to pace the Lakers, who play Berthold at 6 p.m. Thursday in the third-place contest.

Senior guard Anika Rovig had nine points and five assists for Ryan, while classmate Sydney Landsiedel added eight points.

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