Defense, hustle and 31 combined points from the St. Paul’s junior backcourt of Destiny Ryles and Alex Sawyer proved to be the difference in the Gators’ 60-40 victory at No. 8 ranked Catonsville on Monday night in girls basketball action.
Ryles led all scorers with 18 points and classmate Sawyer added 13 for the Gators (5-0).
Catonsville (0-1) won the opening tap and Sophi Wrisk assisted Gabby Douglas for a layup six seconds into the game.
Wrisk picked up her second foul 55 seconds into the first quarter, but the Comets still had a 6-3 lead after a three-pointer by Aysia Ferguson (10 points) and free throw by Rianna Saunders with 5:19 left in the first quarter.
That’s when Ryles made a game-changing three-pointer and was fouled with 4:18 left in the opening quarter.
The four-point play made it 7-6 and Ryles’ steal and layup bumped it to 9-6.
“When I see that we are down, I feel like I’m the one to bring the team up and bring a lot of energy,” Ryles said.
Two free throws by Catonsville’s Larrie Sydnor (team-high 11 points) pulled the Comets within one, 9-8, but that was the closest they would get the rest of the night.
A three-pointer by Sawyers, one of three she made in the first half, sparked a 9-0 run that ended with Ashley Dickey’s two free throws at the end of the quarter.
Sawyers made two three-pointers in the second quarter when the Gators extended their lead to 33-19 at halftime and she added a fourth trey in the fourth quarter to end a scoring drought.
She praised her backcourt partner for getting her the open looks.
“Destiny is a good playmaker and she always finds the open shooter,” Sawyers said.
The Gators also held their own on the boards against the bigger Comets.
“We just make sure to box out because we are smaller and quicker then other teams and we play better defense and we are scrappy,” Sawyers said.
St. Paul’s coach Pat Conrad agreed.
“We don’t have any height advantage, so we try to out-scrap them and outrun them,” he said.
Ryles’ ball-handling ability makes it hard to trap the Gators.
“The girls were able to feed off of her, she’s been doing a lot better job distributing the ball,” Conrad said.
Catonsville coach Mike Mohler was aware of Ryles when he saw the Gators defeat Dulaney, 64-60, but Sawyers missed that game.
“Four (Ryles) does it all for them,” said Mohler, whose Comets won the Class 4A state championship in 2017 and was a state finalist in 2018.
That 23-4 2017-18 squad graduated three starters, including Jasmine Dickey (University of Delware) and Jameila Barrett (Norfolk State University).
“We are a work in progress and the first thing is we have to defend,” Mohler said. “There wasn’t one aspect of the game we did well. We didn’t run our offense and we gave up 60 points, so we didn’t really defend.”
The Comets finished with just 10 made field goals.
“It’s the first game and a long season and we’ve just got to get better and better and better and hopefully we will,” Mohler said. “Give credit to them. They ran their stuff and it showed.”
St. Paul’s 60
Destiny Ryles 18, Alex Sawyers 13, Laurie Satchell 11, Devan Conrad 7, Madison Beale 5, Espry Cha 4, Leah Johnson 2.
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Larrie Sydnor 11, Aysia Ferguson 10, Princess Lawson 8, Rianna Saunders 4, Maddi McLean 3, Ashley Dickey 2, Gabby Douglas 2.