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Ryle Falls in Sweet 16 Quarterfinals

The Ryle basketball players had the look of determination in their eyes from the opening tip.
It showed in the beginning as Ryle (29-7) made its first seven shots. But unfortunately against the tall and athletic Louisville Mercy Jaguars (24-9), Ryle could not keep up that pace in a 93-78 Kentucky State Sweet 16 Quarterfinal loss to the Jaguars on Friday at BB&T Center in Highland Heights.
“I think it was a tough-fought game,” said Katie Haitz, Ryle Head Coach. “A couple things on defense didn’t go the way we were hoping. The other thing for us I think is fatigue set in. We had a really tough game (Thursday) then we had to turn around and play another one (Friday).”
Ryle ended up making 29-of-58 shots for 50 percent including 11-of-21 three-point tries for 52 percent in displaying its usual balance placing four players in double figures. Freshman Brie Crittendon led the way with 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting before fouling out. Junior Lauren Schwartz and sophomore Maddie Scherr followed with 19 and 12 before fouling out and sophomore Jaiden Douthit scored 16. Schwartz added seven rebounds, six assists, three blocked shots and a steal with Scherr putting up six assists, a blocked shot and two steals.
But the foul-prone issues caught up to the Lady Raiders. Ryle committed 29 fouls and Mercy made 32-of-41 free throws for 78 percent. On the other hand, Mercy had 15 fouls and Ryle struggled at the free-throw line making just 9-of-15 for 56 percent.
“When we’re stopping the clock and putting them on the free-throw line and (the three Ryle players) fouled out, it’s hard to get momentum going,” Haitz said. “I feel like we were in the game the whole time until that started happening and we had to get out of our element of pressing a little bit more than what we wanted to with them.”
Mercy also placed four players in double figures making 27-of-60 shots for 45 percent including 7-of-14 from three-point range for 50 percent. Sophomore Taziah Jenks led Mercy with 27 points making 11-of-13 free throws and sophomore Hope Sivori scored 22 making 10-of-13 free throws. Junior Regan Berger and senior 6-foot-3-inch center Danielle Feldkamp followed with 16 each.
“I’m just so proud of these young ladies and what they’ve been doing for the last couple weeks,” said Keith Baisch, Mercy Head Coach. “This group is just fine. Ryle is one heck of a team. They’re a complete team too. We kept telling the kids to believe in what we’re doing. They can’t shoot like that for too long so we kept up the pressure a bit and tried to switch defenses as much as we can. To be able to beat them in this situation is pretty exciting.”
Mercy won the rebounding battle, 41-29. Sivori and Raquael Reese had seven each and Feldkamp had six to go with four blocked shots. Feldkamp made it difficult for Ryle to penetrate and make things happen as consistently as it happened all season.
“It’s definitely key that our guards get a lot of pressure on them,” Feldkamp said. “If they’re driving past them, then that puts me in a risky situation where I may get a foul called and I may not. Sometimes it works out where I keep my hands straight up and get the block or I may not. It helps that I have such great defenders up top to help me out. That kind of throws them off their game.”
Mercy recorded seven steals off 19 Ryle turnovers and outscored the Lady Raiders, 27-16 off turnovers. Ryle recorded six steals off 15 Mercy turnovers. Sivori led Mercy with three thefts.
“Jenks is really tall. It’s hard to get passes around her,” Schwartz said. “They played some great defense. We just had a couple turnovers and other things didn’t go our way. It just wasn’t working out for us.”
The solid shooting kept the game close in the first quarter. Ryle led 27-25 after Crittendon hit a three-pointer with 27 seconds left.
Neither team led by more than three in the second quarter. The lead changed seven times and there were four ties. Mercy led 43-42 at halftime after Berger made two free throws for 45 seconds left in the half.
Schwartz hit a three-pointer to start the second half to give Ryle the lead at 45-43. The Lady Raiders extended it to 46-43 after a McGregor lay-up.
Schwartz gave Ryle its final lead at 55-54 with 4:12 left on a three-pointer. But Jenks answered at the other end with a three to put Mercy on top for good at 57-55.
Mercy scored nine straight before Schwartz made a free throw with 43 seconds left in the third. The Jaguars led 63-56 entering the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars slowly built the lead to double figures. Crittendon hit a triple with 6:32 remaining to get Ryle within six at 66-60. But Ryle came no closer than seven after that.
Ryle still won its first-ever 9th Region crown and captured the first state tournament win in school history. The Lady Raiders return everyone off the team except senior Taylor Birkenhauer.

Written by G. Michael Graham, RCN contributor