MINOT, N.D. - Bishop Ryan is returning to the State Tournament for the third year in a row, with an emphatic win over Our Redeemer's in the Region 6 Championship. It might have been a District Semifinal loss to the Knights, however, that set the Lions on the right path.
"We were pretty high on ourselves for a while there, but that loss really put things into perspective," said senior guard Ben Bohl. "We just have to come out every day and compete because teams aren't going to just let us win.... We've got to want to take it, so that's the turning point."
While that moment sticks out to the Lions now, they still needed to fight for a shot at defending their Region 6 crown.
"We played very poorly on defense in districts when we played them, so our focus was to really lock them down defensively and then that'll lead to our offense," said senior guard Mason Hedberg.
Chinaza Udekwe- "In practice we said we need to focus up now, because it's tourney time and our season can end any minute," added senior guard Chinaza Udekwe. "So our focus [was on] the little things. We had to sharpen up on the little things a lot."
The players say they still remember the bitter overtime loss in last year's State Championship to Hillsboro-Central Valley. It's an experience that's shaped a new journey for the 2019 Lions.
"It was a tough one to take at the time," said head coach Jeremy Feller. "It kind of helped motivate at times this year, and at the same time we have such a new team this year... It's kind of a new season kind of mentality too. You have a whole bunch of sophomores playing this year that didn't play last year, another senior that didn't play at all last year. So we need to rely on those three that were there last year."
Feller says he wants the Lions to leave it all out there, win or lose. Whatever happens, it's meant a lot to these players to don the Purple and Gold.
"Not many people get to play in three state tournaments, and it's just been a special opportunity for me," said Bohl.
"On and off the court coach just makes it that we have a really good relationship with each other... We stay really close to each other, so it's more like a family than a team... I think that's my favorite part about it," said Udekwe.
"It's just us doing everything together, [having] that family atmosphere and having fun playing basketball while doing it," said Hedberg.
Three games at the MSU Dome will tell how this story ends. The Lions open the State Tournament on Thursday against New Rockford-Sheyenne at 8:15 p.m.