Undersized Lions topple the Titans, 48-38
In a game where their opponent had the height advantage, it was the Lions who stood tall when it mattered the most.
The Bishop Ryan boys basketball team put its heart on full display Saturday afternoon at the Lions’ Den against a Dickinson Trinity team whose shortest starter measured just shy of six feet tall. Despite giving up a few inches in its matchups, Ryan played four quarters of fearless basketball to fend off the Titans and earn a 48-38 win.
“Trinity is a great ball club, so this was a great win for us,” Ryan head coach Jeremy Feller said. “We’ve struggled with bigger teams earlier in the season, so it’s nice to see us mature. It was a team win.”
Both teams placed an emphasis on their defense in an opening quarter where easy looks were few and far between.
The two heavyweights exchanged jabs, as Trinity’s Matthew Stafford elevated and delivered an emphatic block on a potential bucket for Ryan’s Chinaza Udekwe down low. But Ben Bohl had his fellow senior’s back.
The 6-foot-3 guard responded with a vicious rejection of his own on the following play, sending a shot by Trinity’s Aric Knopik out of bounds. At the end of the first quarter, the Lions held a slim 9-7 edge.
“Defensively, I thought we were very good,” Bohl said. “We just had a lot of good ball pressure and tried not to give them any good looks. It was definitely a defensive battle.”
After the lowing-scoring opening frame, Ryan found its rhythm in the second quarter. Senior Mason Hedberg got the Lions rolling by draining a pair of long-range bombs, and Bohl sank one from deep as well to push the home team’s lead to 18-10 midway through the quarter.
The exclamation mark came in the closing seconds of the half when Bohl isolated himself at the top of the arc, dribbled to the right shoulder and nailed his second triple at the buzzer to give the Lions a comfortable 30-16 lead at halftime.
But the game was far from over. The Titans slowly chipped away at Ryan’s lead, trimming the deficit to nine at the end of the third quarter and eventually making it a 40-35 game with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Knopik led the charge, scoring seven points in the second half to bring his team within striking distance.
That’s when Hedberg and Bohl carried the Lions to the finish line. The first clutch bucket came from Hedberg, who pulled up from deep without any hesitation and sank a contested triple to give his team a 43-35 edge.
After getting a defensive stop, Bohl battled his way into the lane and finished amongst the trees with a soft touch to push the lead back up to double digits with just under two minutes left in regulation.
The Titans were unable to chip away at the deficit any further, and the Lions secured the 48-38 victory.
Hedberg led all scorers with 22 points, while Bohl finished with 20 points.
For Ryan, the hard-earned, non-regional win could provide some valuable experience come tournament time.
“It’s nice to get that experience, especially with a close game,” Hedberg said. “It’s good to have to grit our teeth down the stretch and be forced to get a stop and a bucket. I’m just happy with how we played.”
Next up for the Lions is Senior Night on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m., where they’ll host Westhope/Newburg. The game will mark the final home stand for Ryan’s five seniors: Hedberg, Bohl, Udekwe, Rubensky Lormejuste and Nicholas Hardy.
“I’m excited for (Senior Night),” Hedberg said. “It’s my last game here, so I’m going to give it all that I’ve got and hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”
Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.