FARGO - On paper, the Bishop Ryan Lions had a clear height advantage on Thompson, the Lions' semifinal opponent in the Class B girls basketball state tournament.
In the flow of the game, that size discrepancy was further accentuated.
Ryan's 6-foot-2 sophomore forwards Gabbie Bohl and Hannah Stewart scored the Lions' first 20 points and combined for 45 in Ryan's 66-46 win Friday night at the Fargodome. The top-ranked Lions (26-0) advance to play Central Cass (24-3) in the championship at approximately 8 tonight.
Bishop Ryan’s Anika Rovig breaks Thompson’s press during the second quarter of the Lions’ 66-46 Class B semifinal win Friday night at the Fargodome. The Lions face Central Cass in tonight’s championship game.
"They used their height against us in the first half," said Thompson coach Jason Brend, whose tallest player is 5-10. "Not only in the half-court set, but they broke us down in transition as well. We had a hard time getting back on defense at times and when we did, they beat us over the top."
Stewart and Bohl combined for 24 points in the opening half as the Lions took a 28-19 lead into the locker room.
In Thursday's quarterfinal against Benson County, the Lions allowed a second-half run and trailed on multiple occasions in the final quarter. Against the Tommies, the Lions quickly extended their lead after halftime and were never threatened late.
After Thompson junior McKenna DeMoe hit 1-of-2 free throws to open the third quarter, Ryan reeled off a 9-0 run capped by a Stewart layup. The Lions led 37-20 after that spurt and the Tommies (24-3) never cut the margin below 11 again.
"We played a lot looser today," Ryan coach Julie Stewart said. "We played that full-court game like we've been playing all year. ... We usually just push the ball up and go and get some easy baskets that way."
The Lions finished with 20 turnovers - 11 in the opening half - but made up for the mishaps by shooting 49 percent from the field and 17-of-19 from the foul line. Ryan also won the rebounding battle 32-26.
Hannah Stewart was effective at slashing to the basket for scores and hit all eight of her free-throw attempts. Bohl scored on a few layups and putbacks, but also hit several jump shots from the high post and baseline.
"Our guards do such a nice job of distributing the basketball," Julie Stewart said. "I thought the way we broke to the high-post area really opened things up. Whether we reversed it or went high-low, it was a great way to execute."
Shannon Galegher (11 points) and Karleigh Weber (10) led the Tommies, but the pair combined to shoot just 7-of-25 from the floor.
Senior Quinn Harmon tallied 13 points for Ryan, who is one win away from its second state title. The first came in 1993 with a 40-39 win over New Salem.
But the Lions won't be able to rely on a huge height advantage in the final. Central Cass junior Faith Dooley, a 6-3 center, recorded a triple-double (13 points, 11 rebounds, 11 blocks) in the Squirrels' 63-52 win over Napoleon on Friday.
"It feels really good, but it's one more game," Bohl said of advancing past the semis. "Central Cass is very good. They've got a lot of really good players and they're big and strong. They have some shooters we really gotta respect so we gotta be ready for tomorrow."
Thompson plays Napoleon in the third-place game at 6 tonight.