Ryle missed out on winning a state championship in its backyard, but the Raiders still have a chance to do so about 70 miles south.
The 9th Region champions defeated 1st Region champ Murray, 56-29, in the opening round of the 58th KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen as the first day of action came to a close Wednesday at Rupp Arena.
Ryle reached the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament, the last of three held at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, about 20 miles from Union. That was the Raiders’ first appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.
Lauren Schwartz, who’s signed with Rice University, led Ryle with 15 points and five assists. Maddie Scherr, a likely Miss Basketball finalist next year if not the frontrunner, had 10 points, six steals, five rebounds and three assists. Jaiden Douthitt and Austin Johnson each finished with 10 points for the Raiders. Sophomore Brie Crittendon had six points and six steals.
“I didn’t feel any pressure,” Scherr said of coming in with a potential Miss Basketball pedigree. “We have such a great team and I trust my teammates. We all played great.”
Ryle scored 27 points off 25 Murray turnovers and held the Tigers to only 26 shots. The Tigers’ 29 points were their fewest in a game this season. It was the fourth time this season Ryle held an opponent under 30 points.
“Lauren says it best, ‘Our defense always creates our offense for us,’ and they’ve really bought into that in the sense of if we’re able to pressure and get ourselves to speed up to the speed that we want, more often than not we’re gonna win the game,” Ryle Coach Katie Haitz said.
Twelve of Murray’s turnovers came in the first half as Ryle built a 27-13 lead. A pair of three-pointers in the second quarter’s final minute — by Makenzie Turley and Parker Greer — put the Tigers past the single-digit scoring mark as the half closed.
“Their length, you can’t simulate it,” Murray Coach Wyatt Foust said. “The only other team that had that kind of length we saw all year was probably Eastern. Marshall County has some length but they don’t quite have the quickness to go with that length, per se. When you can’t simulate it, you can’t prepare for it. You can go over your press break all you want but windows, they open and close so quickly.”
Ryle will play Clark County, a 65-64 winner over Mercy Academy earlier Wednesday, in the quarterfinals on Friday. The Raiders defeated Clark County, 56-45, in the championship of the Louisville Invitational Tournament last month.
“I think it’s gonna be a great game,” Haitz said. “Obviously they’re gonna want to prove themselves for sure. ... They’ve got some great players on their team, some great role players, so we’ll have to make sure how we’re gonna take care of them.”