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Ryle advances to state championship game after players pull together to get semifinal victory

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON — It took some grit and determination for the Ryle girls basketball team to reach the championship game of the KHSAA/Sweet 16 state tournament for the first time.

In a semifinal game on Saturday at Rupp Arena, the Raiders defeated Owensboro Catholic, 55-43, even though they got into foul trouble, shot just 31 percent from the field and their best ball-handler, Maddie Scherr, was hampered by an injury.

Ryle senior Lauren Schwartz, left, drives past an Owensboro Catholic player during Saturday’s state semifinal game. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

A trainer taped an ice pack to Scherr’s right hamstring muscle as soon as the game ended and she walked to the locker room with a slight limp. But Ryle coach Katie Haitz expects to have the junior point guard in the lineup for the state championship game against Pulaski Southwestern at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We’re going to act as if everything’s good and she’s going to be right there with us,”  Haitz said. “She’s a tough kid, you know. She wants to be there with her teammates. We’ll just see how things go (Saturday night) with it and we’ll go from there.”

Scherr and senior teammate Lauren Schwartz both picked up their fourth foul in the fourth quarter, but they were on the floor when the Raiders outscored the Aces, 14-4, in the final four minutes. Schwartz and sophomore guard Brie Crittendon both had six points during that run. Schwartz also had three steals and blocked a shot.

“We just have to have each other’s backs,” Schwartz said of the team’s strong finish. “We have to trust each other and that’s what we did. We know what we’re all capable of.”

Crittendon finished with a game-high 19 points and Schwartz had 16. Ryle’s other double-figure scorer was Juliet McGregor, who had 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds. The 5-foot-7 senior scored six points in the paint and went 7-of-9 at the line when she was fouled under the basket.

Juliet McGregor of Ryle takes the ball to the hoop against Sarah Beth Clemons of Owensboro Catholic. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“She was a difference-maker in the outcome, I believe,” said Owensboro Catholic coach Michael Robertson. “She’s an athlete. We tried to put a smaller girl on her because she does a good job boxing out and we thought we might get some fouls called on her, but apparently we didn’t.”

Ryle had a 25-19 lead at halftime despite shooting 27 percent (6 of 22) from the field and having Schwartz on the bench for nine of the first 16 minutes due to foul trouble. Schwartz did score eight points before picking up her second and third fouls.

Scherr was 0-for-9 from the field in the first half, but the Raiders maintained a lead by playing good defense and getting 10 points from Crittendon. At the break, Owensboro Catholic was shooting 42 percent (9 of 21) from the field, but the Aces had 12 turnovers and only two second-chance points off rebounds.

McGregor scored six points in the third quarter that ended with Scherr getting her first and only field goal on a breakaway layup that gave the Raiders a 39-33 lead. Scherr ended up going 1-for-12 from the field, but she did have six rebounds, four blocks and four steals.

After the Aces pulled to within, 41-39, with 4:07 left on the clock, Schwartz hit a field goal and McGregor made a pair of free throws that started their team’s 14-4 run to close out the game.

Ryle sophomore Brie Crittendon puts up a jump shot against an Owensboro Catholic defender. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

“I don’t usually have the ball in my hands a lot, but in situations like that with Maddie and everyone else in foul trouble I had to step up in that role,” McGregor said. “I think a lot of it was trusting one another. We did that in the last three minutes and really started coming together as a team.”

The only Ryle player on the floor for the entire 32 minutes was Crittendon, who took on different roles when her teammates got into foul trouble. She made both of the team’s 3-point goals, went 9-of-10 at the line and committed only one turnover during the game.

“I really think this young lady right here did a great job,” coach Haitz said of Crittendon. “She took care of the ball and started hitting free throws for us, and that was huge. We talked about who was going to be that person who stepped up (Saturday) and that was definitely Brie.”

Ryle shot 31 percent (13 of 42) from the field while Owensboro Catholic hit on 38.6 percent (17 of 44). The Raiders made 12 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter and outscored the Aces, 27-6, at the line.

Ryle (32-5) and Pulaski Southwestern (28-5) are both newcomers to the state championship game. The Warriors defeated Louisville Male, 52-43, in Saturday’s other semifinal game to get there. They have one senior, three juniors and a sophomore in the starting lineup.

This is the third time in the last seven years that a 9th Region team has made it to the state championship game. Holy Cross won the region’s only state title in 2015 and Notre Dame was runner-up in 2013.

RYLE                                     15  10  14  16 — 55
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC   10    9  14  10 — 43

RYLE (32-5): Crittendon 4 9 19, McGregor 4 7 15, Schwartz 4 8 16, Scherr 1 1 3, Johnson 0 2 2. Totals: 13 27 55.

OWENSBORO CATHOLIC (29-8): McKay 7 2 16, Lyon 3 0 6, Harvey 2 0 5, Keelin 3 0 8, Henning 1 0 2, Clemens 1 4 6. Totals: 17 6 43.

3-point goals: R — Crittendon 2. OC — Keelin 2, Harvey.

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