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Finding their Roar

Lions girls’ basketball looks for offensive boost in ‘21-22

Robert Brewer/MDN Bishop Ryan head coach Roger Coleman, middle, directs his team during Tuesday night’s season-opener.

The Bishop Ryan girls’ basketball team finds itself in a position enviable for any high school program just beginning a new season.

Avid supporters and Region 6 fans will recall the thrilling run the Lions’ volleyball team authored to the region championship game, knocking off the Our Redeemer’s Knights in five sets and falling just two frames shy of the first state tournament appearance in program history.

A handful of members of the volleyball squad will now try to run it back with the girls’ basketball team and finish what they started at the Minot Auditorium.

“The team feels like it has pretty good chemistry already,” Ryan head coach Roger Coleman said prior to Tuesday’s season-opener. “I think some of that can be part of their great volleyball season that they had, getting to the region championship game. The chemistry is definitely there, and now it’s just something that we have to continue to build on with our skills and our defensive and offensive philosophy going forward.”

Each of the Lions’ six scorers during their 48-39 defeat Tuesday evening, Sydney Upton, Berkley Lundeen, Chinelo Udekwe, Magee Rovig, Olivia Demars and Alena Johannsen, appeared on the court for Nicholas Theis’ volleyball team, and Coleman now has a head start with a group already comfortable with and trusting of each other.

Led by their two seniors, Upton and Lundeen, the Lions have every intention of returning the program to the powerhouse it was in the early- to mid-2010s, when Ryan won three consecutive state championships from 2013-15 to accompany the school’s 1993 title.

The team has fought through a bit of a down period ever since, falling short of regional play altogether this past spring after producing a combined 1-4 record in the Region 6 dance from 2017-2020.

“We’re always trying to get into the region tournament and take a run at state, and if you’re not even in the region tournament I would say that’s pretty disappointing,” Coleman said. “Our goal this year is definitely going to be to try to get into that region tournament, give ourselves a chance to make a run at state.”

To make that next step, Coleman and his team know the Lions’ offensive capabilities and production must improve. In 20 games a year ago, Ryan shot just a tick over 30 percent from the field and its three-point success rate hovered in the low 20s.

In effort to counteract the offensive struggles that have plagued the team over the last half-decade, the Lions’ head coach during Ryan’s official two-week practice period has preached the importance of making a more concerted effort to get to the rim. He would like to see a significant uptick in either finishing chances for layups and points in the paint or drawing fouls that lead to opportunities at the free throw line. During the first half of Tuesday’s loss, Ryan saw only four chances at the charity stripe and just five more in the second half.

To their credit, the Lions have avoided bringing their offensive woes with them to the other side of the court. The team’s defensive play has been sound throughout Coleman’s tenure, he recalled, and he and the team hope to continue building upon the solid foundation as the season wears on.

Ryan saw five players average at least one steal per game last season, led by Lundeen, Upton and the since-graduated Sylvie Kramer who snagged at least two per game. Upton and Nora Kramer paced the team on the glass a year ago as well, grabbing 11 and seven rebounds per game, respectively.

As the Lions venture further into their new season, Coleman can hardly wait to see the improvement his team can display after putting into practice the tools he has given it throughout the first two weeks of official practice.

“I know we already had a sports season, but this normalcy feels like it did a couple years ago,” he added. “The excitement of trying to piggyback off this great run these girls had in volleyball, and I just think the energy’s been great at practice and seeing where we fit now with kind of this new approach on offense and a re-energized team that seems to have great chemistry early on.”

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