Region 6 girls basketball figures to be dogfight

Bishop Ryan has been the talk of Class B girls basketball in recent years.

And with good reason.

The Lions have won three of the last four state titles. An upset at the hands of Velva last season in the semifinals of the Region 6 tournament prevented Ryan from making a run at a fourth state title.

And while the Lions are a year removed from a dynasty that saw them string together 82 consecutive Class B victories, Ryan is hoping the 2016-17 season is just as magical.

The Lions have 12 players back from a season ago, including six seniors. That will give the Lions an edge in experience against almost every opponent they will face this season.

Despite an advantage in depth and experience, the Lions still have to get it done on the basketball court.

As I see it, there are three teams that could be in the mix with Ryan for the Region 6 championship.

The Rugby Panthers, the defending region champion, lost their best player, Shea Heidlebaugh to graduation.

But with the return of Breanna Thompson and Madison Uhlenkamp, the Panthers figure to be tough to score against, especially in the post.

Along with Rugby, I also expect Velva to be at the top of District 11 at season’s end. The Aggies’ Jonnah Lee almost single-handedly ended Ryan’s dominance around the state.

Lee finished with 23 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks as Velva pulled off the 36-29 win.

With another year of experience under her belt, Lee should be even more dominant this season.

Lee will be in the mix for Region 6 Senior Athlete of the Year.

Ryan’s toughest competition from within District 12 will be its crosstown rival – Our Redeemer’s Christian School.

It’s been a few years since ORCS has knocked off Ryan in basketball. Could this be the year it changes?

ORCS also returns the majority of its roster from last season. In addition, the Knights have one of the best scorers in the state in Morgan Olson.

Olson, who is the school’s all-time leading scorer, is closing in on 2,000 points and has set a goal to hit the 2,500 milestone by the end of the season.

That likely means Olson will be having one monstrous performance after the next. That is exactly what it will take for ORCS to beat Ryan.

At the end of the day, however, I expect Ryan to play Velva in the region tournament championship game.

But unlike last season and just a month or two ago in volleyball, I expect Ryan to emerge from the region and return to state.

What happens from there? I’m not sure, but it will be fun to watch it all unfold.

Mark Jones covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MarkJones27_MDN.