Behind the height of Bishop Ryan's 6-foot-2 junior forwards Hannah Stewart and Gabbie Bohl is a guard that plays much bigger than her size.
Junior Maddie Wald showcased her ability as a dual-threat guard at the Shootout on the Prairie over the weekend.
Primarily a spot-up shooter during her sophomore season, the 5-5 Wald showed her aggressiveness against Thompson by challenging Shannon Galegher (5-10) and Samantha Hegg (5-9) in the paint.
Bishop Ryan junior guard Maddie Wald pulls up for a shot in the lane against Thompson in the Shootout on the Prairie on Friday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium.
"I've been working on being stronger and getting to the hoop more," Wald said. "If I get to the hoop, that will bring people away from the post more and it will be easier to get baskets."
Wald scored 13 points against Thompson and added six in a blowout win over New Town to stretch Ryan's win streak to 31 games. Her ability to beat defenders off the dribble created space for Stewart and Bohl down low for easy baskets and offensive rebounds.
"Maddie's really worked on her game," Ryan coach Julie Stewart said. "She's gotten a lot stronger and more mature and she played with a lot more confidence."
The extra confidence may stem from being a starting guard for the first time in her career, something she described as "fun" and "exciting." Wald averaged 9.1 points per game off the bench last season.
Next year, Wald will be more than just a starter; she'll more than likely be running the offense at the point. The loss of current point guard Anika Rovig and four others to graduation at the end of the year leaves Wald and sophomore Sheyenne Schmidt with the most experience at the guard position.
"We're going to be losing (Rovig), Sidney (Landsiedel), Macy (Christianson), Maddie (Lipp), and Lauren (Leidholt) and they're all guards," Wald said. "Me and Sheyenne will have to pick it up."
Wald and the top-ranked Lions (2-0) face their second top 10 opponent in the early going with a home matchup against No. 7 Lakota-Edmore on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Team balance key to Hazen's success
A month after the Hazen football team won its second consecutive state title, the boys basketball team is experiencing success of its own on the hardwood.
The Bison (6-0) have demolished their opponents to start the season, winning by an average of 23.5 points per game. During that stretch, Hazen scored 75 points or more in five of its six contests, hitting the 80-point plateau in four games.
"Things have been going pretty well so far," Hazen coach Randy Johnson said. "They've played pretty hard. They've been competing in games and so far we've been pleased."
Hazen's offense is tough to stop because it doesn't rely on one - or even two - players to shoulder the load. Instead, the Bison have an array of scorers to turn to if one option is having an off night or is in foul trouble.
Freshman forward Wyatt Carr leads the team in scoring at 18.2 points per game. He is one of five Bison who average nine or more points. Seniors Austin Cieslak (14.2 ppg), Kyle Lindquist (10.2), Collin Maas (9.6) and Dominick Opp (9.0) round out Hazen's top five scorers.
"Our kids have been unselfish and not worried about stats," Johnson said. "We have a lot of different kids contributing and contributing well. Anyone can lead us."
The Bison began the year unranked in the state media poll, but cracked the top 10 after a convincing 88-62 victory against then-No.3 Des Lacs-Burlington. Hazen sits at No. 6 in the most recent rankings.
Hazen will be tested Friday when it travels to play Bishop Ryan. The Bison also play No. 8 Shiloh Christian and Beulah twice in Region 7 play.
"We want to keep on getting better," Johnson said. "We need to improve on some things. We play a tough enough schedule down the road and it will help us down the road in the region tournament."
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.