Déjà two: Lions claim 2nd straight state title, make history

FARGO – For its record-tying 57th consecutive victory, top-ranked Bishop Ryan needed to achieve a feat it had completed nearly a year ago to the day: rally from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter of the Class B state tournament championship game.

On the back of their three returning all-state selections, the Lions pulled off an eerily similar come-from-behind victory Saturday night at the Fargodome – this one 59-54 over No. 3 Shiloh Christian – to secure the title hardware.

The win ties Larimore’s state-record mark of 57 straight wins from 2002-04 and makes the Lions the seventh team to claim back-to-back state championships.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I wouldn’t want to play on any other team, I wouldn’t want to play for anybody but Coach Stewart,” Ryan senior guard Anika Rovig said. “My teammates have taught me so much and I know that no matter where I end up next year, I know that these memories are what’s going to last me through my life.”

With the Lions (28-0) trailing 46-38 with 5:14 to play, Rovig drove to the left block and competed a traditional three-point play to kick off an 18-4 run. Junior forward Hannah Stewart added a free throw on their next trip, Rovig flipped in a nifty reverse and Stewart took a steal coast to coast for a layup that tied it at 46 with 3:41 left.

Ryan coach Julie Stewart credited Rovig, who finished with 10 points, for keeping her team composed in the final eight minutes.

“When she had that reverse layup and she had a shot earlier, I felt good. I felt like she was confident, in control and she was at least going to give this a great effort and keep the rest of our group calm,” Stewart said.

Following a timeout by Shiloh Christian (25-2) with 3:34 remaining, junior forward Gabbie Bohl cleaned up two missed transition layups for putbacks and Hannah Stewart converted a bunny off a slick entry pass from junior guard Maddie Wald. After two free throws by Shiloh Christian sophomore guard Jaye Two Bears, Stewart answered with a lefty hook and Bohl snared a miss by Stewart for another putback. That put Ryan up 56-50 with 1:03 to play.

“Thank God for Gabbie. Almost every layup I miss I’m like, ‘Oh, there’s Gabbie getting the rebound.’ It’s really nice to have someone just as tall as me getting the boards,” Stewart said of her 6-foot-2 counterpart down low.

Rovig, Bohl and Stewart each garnered all-state honors in 2013.

Stewart, named the tournament’s most valuable player for a second straight year, finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Bohl joined her on the all-tournament team and tallied 15 points and 15 boards.

Senior guard Gabby Wilkinson poured in a game-high 19 points for Shiloh Christian, which led Ryan 26-18 at the break and held a nine-point buffer early in the second half. The Skyhawks committed six of their 16 turnovers in the fourth quarter, though, allowing Ryan to climb back on top.

“Give them credit, because when the game was on the line, their girls stepped up to play and you could tell they’d been there before,” Shiloh Christian coach Jim Petrik said.

They’d absolutely been there before. They’d been in that exact same position: down by eight in the final quarter, seeking a bit of history. Ryan trailed 42-34 to Central Cass in last year’s championship game.

Last year, the Lions were in search of their first state title since 1993; this year, a spot in the record books. And a 3-0 all-time record in championship games.

“This whole entire group is so special and what they accomplished in the past two years is absolutely incredible,” Julie Stewart said. “I’m really lucky to have this experience, to get to know these kids. I thank God they’re in my life. “

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