The Washington Post

St. Mary’s Ryken on the rise in WCAC girls’ basketball ranks

If No. 3 Paul VI Catholic was the primary Washington Catholic Athletic Conference buzz team headed into the season, St. Mary’s Ryken was not far behind, given the Knights’ winning WCAC record a year ago and encouraging victories in summer and fall leagues.

If the Knights (10-3, 3-1) are to cash in on that optimism this season, they might have some history to bury this week when they host Holy Cross and Paul VI and play at No. 5 Good Counsel.

From the 2000-01 season to present, St. Mary’s Ryken is 0-19 against Holy Cross, 3-19 against Paul VI (including a four-point loss in the WCAC quarterfinals last year) and 0-19 against Good Counsel.

“I think we’re ready,” said second-year Coach Kris Sandberg, who was not sure if sharing this history with her players would have an inspiring or an intimidating effect. “I thought we had a good week [last week] getting ready for this week. We have a very good shot with everybody.”

The Knights played No. 1 St. John’s to a 10-point loss last month and won one of three games at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona. They are deeper than they were a year ago, when they went 10-8 in league play. Five players average between eight and 13 points, led by senior guard Marissa Somerville and sophomore guard Briana Hardee, a Good Counsel transfer who has missed the last two games with an illness.

Six-foot-3 senior Cydney Smith has been drawing double teams, freshman guard Deja Ford has coolly handled tough defensive assignments and senior Brittani Burgess, a Delaware signee, leads the team in assists and steals.

Two transfers from No. 6 North Point, sophomores Naiyah Thompson and Bianca Boggs, also are contributing.

“I’ve been very, very happy with the way our seniors are leading and that’s something I wasn’t sure of early on,” Sandberg said. “They’ve allowed our younger players to learn and grow without having to force it on them.”

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