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Ryle wins first state championship in girls basketball with tight-knit team that worked together

Ryle junior guard Jaiden Douthit tries to drive past Kallie Sheron of Pulaski Southwestern in the Sweet 16 state championship game. (Photo by Dale Dawn)


By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON — As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock at Rupp Arena, the five starters on the Ryle girls basketball team got together for a group hug near mid-court. That gave their fans an opportunity to applaud the Raiders for working together to win four state tournament games by double-digit margins, including a 63-48 victory over Pulaski Southwestern in Sunday’s championship game.

When the final horn sounded, the other Ryle players rushed on to the court to celebrate the school’s first-ever state championship in basketball.

Ryle point guard Maddie Scherr gets a shot off between two Southwestern defenders. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

“I am speechless right now,” said Ryle junior guard Maddie Scherr. “I mean what can you say, coming here and winning it with your best friends. It’s all I could ask for. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Scherr was named most valuable player on the state all-tournament team, but scoring summaries from the four games show it took a team effort for the Raiders to claim the title. In each win, they had at least three double-figure scorers and they posted a total of 45 assists in the four-game sweep.

“Everybody contributed, absolutely,” said Ryle coach Katie Haitz. “It wasn’t just one person, it was all of them, and they all know that. They each have roles they had to do and it went great.”

The other Raiders named to the state all-tournament team were sophomore Brie Crittendon and senior Lauren Schwartz, who was a double-figure scorer in all four games. Schwartz is the first Ryle player to score more than 2,000 points during her varsity career, but she said winning the state title is by far her biggest thrill.

“We knew we were (favored) to be the winners, so we had to come out and give everything we had in us,” Schwartz said. “It’s so fun when you have a lot of teammates who work well together.”

Sophomore guard Brie Crittendon leads a fast break for the Raiders. (Photo by Dale Dawn)

Ryle shot 55 percent (22 of 40) from the field in the championship game that drew a crowd of 5,607. The Raiders also got the job done on the defensive end, forcing 20 turnovers while holding Southwestern to 41 percent (16 of 39) shooting.

The leading scorers for Ryle were Crittendon with 21 points, followed by junior Jaiden Douthitt with 17 and Schwartz with 14. Scherr, who played with tape and an elastic sleeve on her right hamstring muscle, had nine points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals.

“I did something to my hamstring, but nothing was going to keep me from playing with my best friends in the last game,” Scherr said.

Ryle set the stage for its 29th win by a double-digit margin this season by taking a 33-14 halftime lead behind a dominant performance at both ends of the court.

The Raiders shot 54.5 percent (12 of 22) from the field in the first two quarters with Crittendon going 6-for-8 and hitting a pair of 3-point goals. They played defense so well that Southwestern didn’t score on 13 straight possessions in the first quarter and finished the half with more turnovers (12) than field goals (5).

During a timeout in the second quarter, one of Ryle’s assistant coaches told the players to take their time running the offense because, “they hate guarding us.”

That continued to be the case in the third quarter when the Raiders scored on eight of their first 12 possessions, but the Warriors made four 3-point goals and trimmed the margin to 50-36 going into the final period.

Ryle’s five starters come together for a group hug in the final seconds after clinching their team’s first state championship. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

With 2:26 left on the clock, Southwestern pulled to within nine points, 57-48, but the Warriors weren’t able to score on their final four possessions. Ryle ran a spread offense that resulted in fouls and made six of seven free throws to come away with the 15-point victory.

“That team right there can compete with anybody in the county, I would imagine,” Southwestern coach Stephen Butcher said of Ryle. “And the kid that killed us didn’t even make the all-tournament team, so what does that tell you about their depth and their quality?”

The coach was referring to Douthitt, who scored nine of her 17 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Raiders on top. The junior came into the state tournament shooting 29.7 percent from the field, but she went 10-of-22 with seven 3-point goals in her team’s four games at Rupp Arena.

“You can definitely pick out different games where you saw a different player step up,” said Ryle senior Juliet McGregor. “I think that’s the great thing about our team. We’re all capable of different things and you see something new in our team in each game.”

This is the second time in five years that a 9th Region girls basketball team has won the KHSAA/Sweet 16 state championship. Holy Cross won the region’s first title in 2015. Ryle did win the first girls state tournament ever played at Rupp Arena and the total attendance of 40,851 was the second highest ever.

“I was a little concerned that it was going to be too big of an arena for it, but this has been unbelievable,” coach Haitz said. “To play on UK’s floor and be a part of this and win it, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”

RYLE                         17  16  17  13 — 63
SOUTHWESTERN      6    8  22  12 — 48

RYLE (33-5): Schwartz 4 4 14, Crittendon 7 5 21, McGregor 1 0 2, Scherr 4 0 9, Douthit 6 2 17. Totals: 22 11 63.

SOUTHWESTERN (27-6): Cundiff 5 6 16, Sheron 5 2 13, Smiddy 0 3 3, Wood 1 0 2, Harris 2 0 6, Young 1 0 3, Foreman 2 0 5. Totals: 16 11 48.

3-point goals: R — Douthitt 3, Crittendon 2, Schwartz 2, Scherr. S — Harris 2, Sheron, Young, Foreman.

2019 — Ryle 63, Pulaski Southwestern 48
2015 — Holy Cross 35, Allen County-Scottsville 32
2013 — Marion County 52, Notre Dame 36
1994 — M.C. Napier 88, Highlands 56

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