BERTHOLD - Bishop Ryan boys basketball coach Brock Teets returned to the atmosphere he'd grown accustomed to during his five years with Berthold and left with the feeling most visiting coaches feel when exiting the small yet boisterous gym.
With most of Ryan's focus on junior guard Austin Lee, senior Mitchel White tore through the Lions' defense from inside the paint and behind the 3-point arc.
White finished with a game-high 29 points and hit a team-best three 3-pointers in Berthold's 73-57 victory against Ryan in the District 12 opener for both teams. Even with Ryan senior Nick Berentson draped all over him throughout the contest, Lee still managed 24 points.
Berthold senior Mitchel White dribbles the ball past Bishop Ryan senior Brody Bosch on Thursday at Berthold. The Bombers won 73-57.
"That's the one thing about this basketball team is we emphasize team," Berthold coach Chris Brown said. "We know some nights Austin's going to have a target on his back and we know another person is going to step up. Tonight, Mitchel, with his senior leadership, stepped up and was big for us."
Berentson won the battle against Lee in the first quarter, limiting the sharpshooter to four points in the opening eight minutes. Lee's first basket came with 1:54 left in the first quarter. With Lee neutralized at the time, the Lions held a 14-13 advantage heading into the second quarter. Berentson recorded five of his eight points in the first.
The Bombers (9-0 overall, 1-0 district) took control in the second quarter by outscoring Ryan 23-8. Berentson was forced to the bench after picking up his second foul with 6:55 left in the half and senior Austin Eggl took his spot guarding Lee. Tied at 16, Lee and White scored 18 of Berthold's final 20 points of the half. Lee hit both his 3s during that stretch and White hit another.
"I just came out and played hard and when I got the ball and had open shots I just took them," White said. "I had confidence in myself and I had confidence in my teammates."
Berthold extended its lead to as many as 17 points after White's second bucket of the second half gave the Bombers a 42-25 advantage. White poured in nine points in the third quarter as Lee was held without a basket.
"He had a great game," Lee said of White. "It opens up things for my teammates and that's great they can capitalize and make shots like that."
The Lions (4-3, 0-1) caught fire from behind the arc in the fourth and cut Berthold's lead to single digits for the first time since midway through the second frame. A quick 8-0 run fueled by 3s from Eggl and senior Brody Bosch brought Ryan within 53-44 with 6:43 remaining, but White and Lee thwarted the Lions' comeback attempt at every corner.
"They're 100 percent every single play - diving on the floor, rebounding the basketball, pushing the ball and sharing the ball," Teets said of his former team. "Berthold's clearly the better team. We have a long way to go. We have to make a commitment to get better."
Five more points from White pushed Berthold's lead back to 14 before the Lions pulled within 10 following 3s by Berentson and Eggl in between a bucket by Berthold junior Marshall White. But the Bombers ballooned their lead back to 15 with a 3 by Mitchel White and a bucket by Lee.
"We just didn't play our game tonight," Teets said. "Berthold was on their game. We got in their type of game and we just never settled into our own. We didn't share the basketball enough. Mitchel White, Austin Lee, Adam Knudsvig, I could go down the list, every single one of them worked their tail and I have so much respect for those kids. That's winning basketball. That's something we're striving for at Bishop Ryan. I think Berthold proved tonight they're the top of the district and they earned it."
Eggl finished with 19 points and hit five 3s to lead the Lions.
Ryan plays at TGU on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. and Berthold hosts Surrey on Tuesday.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.