It was a stiff early-season test for the Bishop Ryan boys basketball team, but the Lions started fast and did enough down the stretch to fend off Watford City.
Playing against a sizable opponent, Ryan junior center Jared Will outshined the Wolves' big men inside, finishing with a game-high 23 points in the Lions' 61-51 victory Saturday at Bishop Ryan.
Ryan (2-0) jumped on Watford City early, opening the game on a 15-1 run. Senior guard Brody Bosch had seven points and classmate Nick Berentson had a big block on senior Mitchell Liebel's 3-point attempt during that span. Liebel scored Watford City's first field goal with 3 minutes, 16 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Bishop Ryan senior guard Brody Bosch drives to the basket against Watford City’s Dustin Kleppen on Saturday at Bishop Ryan.
"We knew coming in that Watford City was going to be a challenge for us," Will said. "They're big and physical and we knew we were going to have to step up our game and be better."
The Lions limited the Wolves (2-1) to 16 first-half points on just five field goals. Ryan's defense led to offense as the Lions played inside out, getting the ball to Will in the post. Will had 11 points in the first half, but Ryan did damage from the perimeter as well. The Lions hit all four of their 3s in the first 16 minutes.
"We always want to get the ball inside," Ryan coach Brock Teets said. "I think any basketball coach would say that. Jared did a pretty good job finishing. We had some good passes inside. I thought we moved the ball well."
Ryan led 33-16 at halftime, but the Wolves came out hot from beyond the arc in the second half. Watford City's David Kline hit three 3s in the third quarter, part of a 17-3 run that cut Ryan's lead to five with 3:48 left in the frame.
"We came out and played with a little emotion and we hit some shots," Watford City coach Randy Cranston said. "We got to the basket a little bit better. David Kline got hot there, but it was better team basketball on both sides of the floor."
The Lions worked the ball back inside to Will, who scored Ryan's final six points of the quarter for a 44-33 advantage.
"We always want to work the ball inside out," Will said. "If I'm not able to get a shot up, I'm still able to kick it out to our shooters. Getting the ball inside makes our offense work better."
Ryan senior guard Austin Eggl shut down Kline in the fourth, limiting him to three points. Kline's only basket of the quarter came with 42 seconds left. He finished with 18 points.
"I thought Austin did a really nice job tonight on Kline," Teets said. "He got hot, but overall Austin did a great job tonight. He played the defensive end real well."
After being limited to one point in the second and third quarters, Bosch scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth.
Logan Fettig led the Wolves with 19 points.
Both teams are in action Saturday. The Lions host No. 6 Rugby at 6 p.m. and the Wolves travel to play Hazen at 5 p.m.
Mike Kraft covers high school athletics and hockey. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.