Bishop Ryan, Stewart honored by NDAPSSA

For a Class B school, Bishop Ryan in 2013-14 turned in one of the more impressive girls sports campaigns of this millennium.

In the winter, the Lions defended their title in basketball, tying the state record for consecutive wins (57) in the process. In the spring – once again opting to play Class A softball – they placed second for a third straight year, losing to 17-time defending champion West Fargo. In the fall, Ryan won the District 12 volleyball title, but dropped a five-set thriller to Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood in the Region 6 championship, falling a few points shy of the program’s first state tournament berth.

Today, the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association honor the Lions basketball team and junior three-sport standout Hannah Stewart.

Ryan is the NDAPSSA’s high school girls team of the year while Stewart has been named high school girls athlete of the year. Basketball and softball coach Julie Stewart, Hannah’s mother, was one of three finalists for high school girls coach of the year.

Hannah Stewart garnered all-state distinctions in basketball and softball.

“She really works hard at being an athlete and stays committed to being an athlete,” Julie Stewart said. “That can transfer into a lot of different sports and a lot of different directions. I think the fact that she does play three sports stretches a person; it also keeps you fresh and excited when you’re involved in each particular sport – just sort of a rejuvenation so to speak.”

Hannah Stewart averaged 23 points and 11.3 rebounds per game as the Lions tied the 2002-04 Larimore teams’ record for consecutive wins.

In the spring, she starred as a pitcher and shortstop. Stewart went 13-3 with a 0.87 ERA in the circle. At the plate, she led the team in batting (.539), on-base percentage (.574), doubles (13) and home runs (9).

Julie Stewart took pleasure in coaching her daughter in both sports.

“I think the relationship and the trust we’ve had has been extraordinary,” Stewart said. “Sometimes it’s not an easy situation, but it’s worked out well for Hannah and I.

“I believe she plays humbly and is very thankful and grateful to her teammates. She understands that they make her look better; her catcher makes her look better as a pitcher and her teammates make her look better on the basketball floor. She gets that.”

Conversely, Hannah Stewart makes her teammates look better, too.

On the hardwood, the 6-foot-2 forward is a low-volume player. She pads her stats without needing to dominate the ball. She requires plenty of attention from opponents at both ends of the court, which opens up opportunities for her teammates.

As a result, the Lions ran the table for a second straight season.

“Anytime you get a young group and you get them for two or three years in a row, it’s a big advantage,” Julie Stewart said. “We were able to continue to sharpen what we did well and also advance them to a pretty high level just because they understood things and they’re an intelligent group of kids.”

The Lions’ high-energy approach developed into a high-executing style, one that posted 78.8 points per game while allowing just 33.3.

Ryan trailed after halftime in just two games all year: its season opener against No. 2 Thompson and in the state championship against No. 3 Shiloh Christian. The veteran squad calmly rallied both times to keep its winning streak alive. It earned the Lions the NDAPSSA’s honor of North Dakota’s top high school girls team.

“There was a lot of crying after we won the state championship game – with two undefeated seasons and some very close friendships,” Julie Stewart said. “We agreed not to cry because it’s over, but cry because it happened. It was a special moment that I will never forget.”

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