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Surefire: Scherr-fired Ryle rolls to Girls’ Sweet Sixteen title

March 17, 2019 FieldsColumn

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Ryle junior star Maddie Scherr was named Sweet Sixteen MVP after sparking the Raiders to their first state title. (KHSAA PHOTO)

 

BY MIKE FIELDS

Orange and black – not green — were the winning colors on St. Patrick’s Day as the Ryle Lady Raiders rolled to the championship of the 58th KHSAA Girls’ Sweet Sixteen before 5,607 fans in Rupp Arena.

Ryle, whose school colors are orange and black, dominated Southwestern 63-48 in Sunday afternoon’s finals to become only the second Northern Kentucky girls’ team to win a state title. (Covington Holy Cross cut down the nets in 2015.)

Maddie Scherr, one of the top juniors in the nation, was named the tournament’s MVP after exemplifying what it means to be an all-around player.

The 5-foot-11 point guard totaled 52 points, 31 rebounds, 11 assists, 10 steals and 9 rebounds in helping Ryle sweep past Murray, Clark County, Owensboro Catholic and Southwestern.

Ryle Coach Katie Haitz and senior standout Lauren Schwartz embrace after the Raiders’ title game victory.

“Maddie is so unselfish,” Lady Raiders Coach Katie Haitz said. “She’s just unbelievable . . . her ball-handling, knowing the game, getting her (teammates) involved. She does so much other stuff than scoring. She’s one heck of a player.”

Scherr, who’s being recruited by Kentucky, Louisville and Oregon (among many others), tweaked her right hamstring in Saturday’s semifinals, but she wasn’t going to let that keep her from taking the floor for the season finale.

“Nothing was going to keep me from playing with my friends in this last game,” said Scherr, who could be seen grimacing in pain at times during the finals. “This was amazing. To win a state championship with your best friends, that’s all I can ever ask for.”

Ryle senior standout Lauren Schwartz, a Rice University signee, felt the same way: “Me and Maddie wanted to end our season in a perfect way.”

Ryle, which opened in 1993 when Boone County High School split, had never made it to the Sweet Sixteen until last year when it reached the quarterfinals before losing to Mercy. Haitz said that experience “made the girls believers . . . that we can do this, we know what we’re doing.”

Ryle also got timely contributions this week from 5-9 sophomore Brie Crittendon, who led the way with 19 points against Owensboro Catholic and 21 against Southwestern; 5-7 junior Jaiden Douthit, who had 17 points against Southwestern; 5-7 senior Juliet McGregor, who had 15 points and 7 rebounds against Owensboro Catholic; and 5-9 freshman Austin Johnson, who provided a spark off the bench.

Ryle senior Lauren Schwartz celebrated her team’s state title.

“This group of girls knows basketball,” Haitz said.

So does their coach.

Katie Madden Haitz was a star player at Boone County for Coach Nell Fookes, and went on to have a standout career at Taylor University. She returned home and was an assistant under Fookes for two years.

Haitz is in her fourth year at Ryle, and notched her 100th victory this week while guiding the Lady Raiders to a 33-5 record this season.

Fookes, who won almost 700 games in her 30-year career at Boone County and is being inducted into the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame this year, was in Rupp Arena Sunday afternoon to cheer on her former player and assistant.

“Katie was a heck of a player, very intense, and she carried that on to coaching,” Fooke said.  “She’s at the right place at the right time, she’s got good players, and they’re doing what she wants them to do.

“I couldn’t be prouder of her. I feel like I’m involved. It’s almost like a legacy; it lives on. And I’m just super proud of her.”

Fookes texted Haitz early Sunday with a simple message: “Coach like the champion you are.”

As Ryle’s players were cutting down the nets, Haitz was asked about that text from Fookes.

“Coach is awesome,” Haitz said, fighting back tears. “She a great mentor.”

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