Even though the style is a bit different this season, the Irish eyes still seem to be smiling on Father Ryan’s basketball team.
After cruising to an easy 52-26 win over Stratford on Tuesday, Ryan will celebrate Christmas, then move into its annual Ryan Christmas Invitational tournament with a 7-2 record and lots of momentum.
Normally, Ryan plays at an up-and-down, frenetic pace. That element remains in the Irish game, but with some differences – although the trademark Irish defense is still intact.
“We’re playing a little different style this season, a bit of a slower pace, with more emphasis on defense,” coach Doug Bontrager who, in his 25th season as Irish boss, is the dean of coaches in Nashville at one school. “That’s due mainly to the makeup of our team, something which fits our personnel a bit better.”
With leading scorers Jake Clifton and Patrick Pinckney leading the way, Ryan appears to be the team to beat in its three-day tournament. The top seeded Irish will meet Shelbyville, 7:45 p.m. Tuesday in their opener. No. 2 seed Oakland will face Hillsboro at 4:30 Tuesday.
Semifinals in the all-boys tournament are Wednesday, and the championship round is Thursday.
“We’ve got seven seniors, so we’ve got a lot of experience and closeness,” the rugged 6-foot-5, 235-pound Clifton, also the leading rebounder, said. “Everyone is working hard, and we’re especially looking forward to our tournament.”
Ryan’s signature victory so far this season is an impressive 46-32 triumph at David Lipscomb earlier this month. Its only losses were to Ravenwood and Christian Brothers.
The Irish haven’t face a DII opponent yet. That happens Jan. 4 against big rival MBA.
• The Overton Christmas tournament opens Monday morning, with fields of 10 boys and eight girls teams. The opening day features 10 games (six for the boys, four for the girls).
The host Bobcats again face a situation they successfully have hurdled each of the last two years – trying to win two games in one day.
They begin the event with an 8 a.m. tip-off against Battle Ground Academy. The winner plays again at 6:30 p.m.
Overton hopes history will repeat itself as the Mookie Betts-led Bobcats won the event last year.
“We were sleepwalking in our morning game (last year),” coach James McKee said. “But we awoke and played much better in the second game.”
One of the most attractive games in the Bobcat tournament finds East Literature, one of the top surprises in the opening month of hoops in Nashville, going against scrappy Spring Hill, 12:30 p.m. Monday.
The high-flying and once-beaten David Lipscomb girls appear to be the favorite in the girls division. Coach Ernie Smith’s Mustangs meet USN in their opener, 8 p.m. Monday.
Semifinals are Tuesday and finals are Wednesday.
• Christ Presbyterian Academy, led by Craig Bradshaw and Jalen Lindsey, will open in the Beech High Invitational, 1 p.m. Tuesday against West Tennessee powerhouse Union City. The Lions lost in overtimes to Livingston earlier this week in the semifinals of the Ensworth Holiday Shootout.
• The annual Ryan Invitational Wrestling tournament will be held Friday, Jan.7-Saturday, Jan. 8, with some of the state’s best teams on hand. Coach Pat Simpson’s Ryan unit is ranked No. 7 in the latest Tennessee High School Wrestling Poll.
Overton Christmas Tournament
8 a.m. – BGA-Overton, boys; 9:30 a.m.—Lipscomb-Glencliff, boys; 11 a.m.—Glencliff-East Lit, girls; 12:30 p.m.—Spring Hill-East Lit, boys; 2 p.m.—Rossview-Ryan, girls; 3:30—Ravenwood-Westwood, boys; 5:00—Overton-Maplewood, girls; 6:30—Winner game 1 vs. Winner game 2, boys; 8 p.m.—USN vs. Lipscomb, girls; 9:30 – Creekside vs. Whites Creek, boys.
9 a.m.—boys consolation game; 10:30 – girls consolation; 12:00—Boys consolation; 1:30 p.m.—Girls consolation; 3 p.m.—Boys consolation; 4:30 – Girls semis; 6:00—Boys semis; 7:30—Girls semis; 9 p.m.—Boys semis.
9 a.m.—Boys 9th place; 10:30 a.m.—Girls 7th place; 12:00—Boys 7th place; 1:30—Girls 5th place; 3:00—Boys 5th place; 4:30—Girls 3rd place; 6:00—Boys 3rd place; 7:30 – Girls Finals; 9:00—Boys finals.
Father Ryan Christmas Tournament
3 p.m.—Mt. Juliet vs. Clarksville; 4:30—Oakland vs. Hillsboro; 6:15 – Centennial vs. LaVergne; 7:45 – Ryan vs. Shelbyville.
3 p.m.—Loser gm 1 vs. Loser gm 2, consolation game; 4:30—Loser gm 3 vs. Loser gm 4, consolation game; 6:15 p.m. – Winner gm 1 vs. Winner gm 2, semis; 7:45—Winner gm 3 vs. Winner gm 4, semis.
3 p.m.—7th place; 4:30 – 5th place; 6:15—3rd place; 7:45 – Championship.