FARGO - The Bishop Ryan Lions looked briefly taken aback.
Facing a suddenly hot-shooting Benson County team and their first fourth-quarter deficit of the season, the top-ranked Lions were in danger of falling in the first round of the Class B state tournament for the second consecutive season.
But the Lions scored nine consecutive points and held off the scrappy Wildcats to claim a 58-53 victory Thursday night at the Fargodome.
Bishop Ryan sophomore Hannah Stewart, right, tries to drive past Benson County's Becca Eberle in the first round of the Class B state tournament at the Fargodome on Thursday.
Ryan (25-0) advances to play Thompson (24-2) in a semifinal at approximately 8:15 tonight.
Junior guard Anika Rovig returned to the game and stabilized the Lions after Benson County's Sara Schwanke nailed a pull-up jumper to give the Wildcats a 45-43 lead with five minutes, six seconds remaining.
After Lions sophomore Hannah Stewart tied the game with a layup, Rovig assisted on another Stewart basket, drilled a 3-pointer from the right wing and knocked down a jumper from the free-throw line. With that spurt, the Lions led 52-44 and Benson County didn't get closer than four points the rest of the way.
"(Rovig) had a really nice demeanor tonight," Ryan coach Julie Stewart said. "I thought she was just real confident and comfortable with what we were trying to do."
It wasn't the prettiest game for Rovig and the Lions. Rovig had six of the team's 20 turnovers, but also scored 18 points and finished with five assists.
"Coming up in the state tournament, you always have tougher teams," Rovig said. "You're gonna have turnovers because that's part of the game. It's just important to keep working hard and never give up because things will start going for you."
Benson County (24-2) struggled to get good shots in the first half and trailed 26-16 at the break. After shooting 0-of-10 in the opening half, Schwanke scored nine in the third quarter and finished with 11.
She fouled out with 4:53 left, though, and the Wildcats didn't have enough firepower to contend with Ryan down the stretch.
Hannah Stewart finished with game highs of 22 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, and fellow sophomore post Gabbie Bohl had 11 points on the strength of 7-of-10 free-throw shooting.
Sophomore Andrea Jorgenson led Benson County with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Senior post Becca Eberle tallied 12 points and guard Katelynn Engh finished with 10 points after knocking down three 3-pointers - all in the second half.
Julie Stewart said the Lions withstood the Wildcats' run by relying on their defense. Ryan finished with 16 steals.
"When we can get some stops, (the players) have confidence in each other," Julie Stewart said. "When we can get in a rhythm and a flow, they're real comfortable with what we're doing."
Benson County drops into a consolation matchup with New Town at approximately 3 p.m. today.