With Ryan’s only returning starter and a few other key contributors from last season still wearing their football pads, Ryan boys coach Bryce Overstreet said the team was working on keeping things simple early in the season.
Early in Tuesday night’s nondistrict game against Melissa, the Raiders struggled to hang on to the ball and were tied with the Cardinals at halftime.
But Ryan overcame its first-half mistakes and defeated Melissa 45-34 at Billy Ryan Gym.
Ryan committed 10 first-half turnovers but took better care of the ball in the second half to jump out to a 10-point lead in the third quarter and win its second game of the season.
“We don’t have enough firepower offensively to not get shots at the basket 10 different times in the first half,” Overstreet said. “In the second half, I felt like we made some strides. In the third quarter, we came out and we played with more intensity.”
Allen Grant led Ryan (2-3) with 14 points, while guard Ibrahim Logan chipped in with 10 points. Prior to Tuesday night, the team’s only win was a triple-overtime thriller against Denton on Nov. 25.
Along with returning starter Tyrone Williams, seniors Trent Willis and Xavier Gray are still occupied with Ryan’s football season that has extended three weeks into the playoffs. All three saw significant time with the basketball team last season.
Paul Hunter and Xavier Pittman also are expected to join the team at the end of the football season, Overstreet said.
But the Raiders had all the assets they needed against the Class 3A Cardinals (1-4), whose only win came against Class A Division II’s Roxton.
Overstreet’s Class 5A team employed a full-court press in the second half and forced Melissa into a slew of turnovers.
Grant took advantage of an offensive rebound and scored a basket in the third quarter to push Ryan’s lead to 27-17.
The referee’s whistles chirped about as much as the players’ shoes squeaked. Melissa committed its 10th team foul of the second half with 10.8 seconds left in the third quarter. Ryan’s foul total also was approaching that territory.
“It just seemed like there were a lot of whistles in the second half that changed the game for us,” Melissa coach Clinton Sadler said. “But I thought our guys adjusted to it. Denton Ryan just did a good job defensively, and we had a tough time scoring.”
The Cardinals were led by Sheldon Moore’s 10 points, eight of which came in the second half.
With his team lacking any returning starters, Overstreet said the squad is trying to improve on the game’s smaller aspects.
“While we’re doing that, we’re trying to keep it as simple as possible,” Overstreet said. “Being inexperienced, we can’t get too complicated with things. We’re working on taking care of the basketball, rebounding — things that we can control.”
The little things enabled Ryan to pull away in the second half and gain some much-needed experience.
“Winning helps a lot of things,” Overstreet said. “It’s still early. These kids are learning each and every day. We’re continuing to grow. It’s early, but wins always help.”
Ryan 45, Melissa 34
Melissa – Nathan Razo 2, Corey Regan 2, Christian Cabil 4, Will Gray 2, John Gressett 2, Joseph Ragan 5, Sheldon Moore 10, Conner Bazis 7.
Ryan – Ibrahim Logan 10, Zac Brooks 7, Rodney Gladney 9, Jatin Bailey 1, Omar Mohammed 1, A.J. Hill 3, Manny Torralba 1, Allen Grant 14.