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Ryle remains undefeated with win over Conner in showdown between top girls basketball teams

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Ryle showed the confidence and composure you would expect from a veteran lineup and rallied to defeat Conner, 60-49, Friday in an early season showdown between the top two girls basketball teams in the Northern Kentucky preseason coaches poll.

After falling behind 14-0 in the opening minutes, the top-ranked Raiders made a steady comeback to gain control of the game and closed it out with a 14-6 scoring run to come away with their fifth straight victory by a double-digit margin.

Conner forward Maddie Burcham, No. 23, goes up to block a shot by Ryle guard Lauren Schwartz during the game between the top two teams in the local coaches poll. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

“It’s all about our mental aspect,” said Ryle senior guard Lauren Schwartz. “That’s pretty much what we’ve been working on in practice. To overcome adversity, we know we just have to get out there and play our game and not get frustrated.”

Schwartz is one of five starters returning from the first Ryle team to win a 9th Region championship last season. The Raiders got to the quarterfinals of the state tournament and finished with a best-ever 29-7 record.

With its wealth of experience, Ryle was voted No. 1 by local coaches coming into this season. But the Raiders had to work hard to prevent an upset in Friday’s game at Conner, the No. 2 team in the coaches poll.

The Cougars jumped out to a 14-0 lead by making five of their first 10 shots from the field and four of them were 3-pointers. At that point, Ryle was 0-for-12 from the field, even though they got two shots on four of their first nine possessions.

That’s when Ryle coach Katie Haitz called a timeout to settle down her players and they responded just the way she hoped.

“Kudos to them in the sense of they came together,” Haitz said. “In the huddle it was, ‘We can do this, we can play defense, we can get back in this game.’ I mean this is only our fifth game and for them to handle this kind of atmosphere and this kind of adversity is wonderful.”

Ryle sliced the lead to 21-14 in the final three minutes of the first quarter and pulled to within one point, 28-27, by halftime. Schwartz and junior guard Maddie Scherr both scored 11 points for the Raiders during that rally.

Defense was also a key factor. Conner senior guard Courtney Hurst, who scored 15 points in the first quarter, did not get a basket in the second quarter because she was closely guarded by Ryle junior Jaiden Douthitt.

Ryle guard Maddie Scherr puts up a shot over Conner center Maddie Drummonds. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

The Raiders scored on their first two possessions in the third quarter to take a 31-28 lead. In the final minute of the period, Conner forward Maddie Burcham made a pair of free throws to put her team ahead, 43-41, but Schwartz hit a 3-pointer and scored off an offensive rebound to put Ryle back on top, 46-43.

“We weren’t getting what we wanted done underneath (the basket) so I knew I had to step up and try to get as many offensive rebounds as I can and put them back up,” Schwartz said.

Ryle extended its lead to 52-43 in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Hurst hit a 3-pointer and scored on a cut to the basket to make it 52-48, but the Cougars got only one point in the final three minutes.

“We got a little tired,” said Conner coach Aaron Stamm. “You have to play at a different pace against Ryle. They’re not going to let you walk it up and they’re not going to let you do things you can do against other teams. They’re so long and athletic that you have to play at that pace. Hopefully, our kids understand that now.”

Conner shot 34 percent (16 of 47) from the field compared to Ryle’s 30.9 percent (21 of 68). Hurst finished with a game-high 23 points, followed by Schwartz with 22 and Scherr with 17.

Conner has now lost four straight games against its district rival, but Stamm said Friday’s game was a step forward for his team after a 27-point loss to the Raiders in last year’s 33rd District final.

“The last thing we told our girls in the locker room is we’re not satisfied by no means,” Stamm said. “We didn’t get where we wanted to go (Friday), but it does show the work you’re putting in is worth it.”

RYLE         14  13  19  14 — 60
CONNER   21   7  15   6  — 49

RYLE (5-0): Crittendon 2 4 10, McGregor 2 0 4, Schwartz 8 3 22, Scherr 6 4 17, Johnson 2 0 5, Douthitt 1 0 2. Totals: 21 11 60.

CONNER (3-1): Hurst 7 3 23, Jordan 3 0 7, Burcham 1 6 8, Murphy 1 0 2, Drummonds 4 0 8, Strange 0 1 1. Totals: 16 10 49.

3-pointers: R – Schwartz 3, Crittendon 2, Scherr, Johnson. C – Hurst 6, Jordan.

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