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Ryan sisters help fuel Sacred Heart's run to Federation girls basketball Final Four

The drill is called nickel and dime. Sacred Heart girls basketball coach Carrie Owens makes sure the Ryan sisters aren’t on the same side for it.

It’s not because she’s worried that a team up between Micaela and Siobhan Ryan would overwhelm the others during the 5-on-5 drill. It’s quite the opposite. Owens wants the others on the team feeding off the intense refuse-to-lose attitude that emits once the siblings go at it on the basketball court.

The team that scores and gets a stop earns the right to stay on the court during the drill. The team that fails to do that must watch and wait for its turn to take the court once more in hopes of gaining measure of payback.

The sister that has to watch, according to Owens, usually isn’t happy.

What makes the Ryans positively giddy, though, is the fact both will be waging battle together like they have in so many games this season in hopes of turning the Sharks’ dream of earning a Federation championship into reality.

Sacred Heart (20-8), the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association Class A champion, faces New York City PSAL champion James Madison (27-1) at 10:45 a.m. Friday in the semifinals of the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.

The winner advances to Saturday’s 4 p.m. final to face either NYSPHSAA champion Jamesville-Dewitt (22-4) or defending Federation champion Staten Island Academy (16-7). All of the semifinalists, except Sacred Heart, reached this point of the season last year.

The Federation brings together the four postseason champions in the state (NYSCHSAA, PSAL, New York State Public High School Athletic Association and Alliance of Independence Schools) under one roof in a tournament to determine the overall New York State champion. The tournament includes boys and girls Classes AA, A and B champions.

The only other Buffalo-area team still playing this season is Park School boys basketball. The Pioneers face NYSPHSAA champion Amityville at 2:15 p.m. Saturday at Cool Insuring Arena. The winner advances to the Class A final at 4 p.m. Sunday against either independent champion Albany Academy or Brooklyn Law and Technology of the PSAL.

Sacred Heart plays the second game of the tournament. The Ryans can’t wait, especially after failing to earn a spot last year.

They had hoped to play together in the 2017 event, but Kellenberg ended up winning the state Catholic title.

They get to make up for lost time this year and in the process provide a special moment for Micaela Ryan.

Two years ago she was the plucky sophomore who stepped up her game to help Sacred Heart reach this point after watching older sister and current Brown University basketball player Kathleen Ryan suffer a season-ending knee injury midway through the campaign. Although she played games with Kathleen, she didn’t get to play in the most important ones that year with her.

That makes Micaela, the senior who will continue her career at Elon, appreciate this run with Siobhan, a sophomore, who runs the show at point guard.

“It’s definitely special,” said Micaela, who averages 19.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2 steals per game. “I wanted to play with my older sister when I was a sophomore and I couldn’t. To be able to share this with my younger sister just adds to the high school memory and the whole experience of playing with each other.”

Siobhan didn’t even go to Federation as a spectator two years ago when Sacred Heart got bounced in the semifinals by eventual champion Staten Island Academy. She had her own basketball tournament that same weekend with her middle-school team.

“For me, it’s a really big deal to go to the Federation for the first time,” said Siobhan, who ranks second on the Sharks at 14.4 ppg. and also averages 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Sibling rivalry is more like competitive hunger between the two when matched up against each other in practice. Micaela admitted they are a little more aggressive than they are against teammates.

The fact they are competitive and know each other so well on the court is beneficial.

“The bond they have is something special,” Owens said. “Because both have a high basketball IQ and can envision or sense what the other can do they work well off one another. The intuition they have, Micaela knows where Siobhan’s going and Siobhan knows where Micaela’s going. They’re very familiar with each other.”

The competitive spirit they show in practice?

Well there’s nothing wrong with that, especially this time of year – which is why Owens conducted lots of competitive-type drills leading up to Friday’s clash.

Sacred Heart’s going to need to be feisty against a New York City champion that has been virtually flawless the past two seasons. James Madison lost just once last year. Madison has tall players who can shoot. The scouting report from Owens is that James Madison uses a 2-3 zone even though it looks athletic enough to run. Its 6-foot center, Ketsia Athias, is adept at swatting shots away.

Sacred Heart is trying to win a Federation title for the first time since capturing Class D in 1992.

This is the second of three seasons the Federation will take place in Glens Falls, the one-time longtime mecca of the state public schools tournament.

Glens Falls reacquired the Federation from Albany after losing the NYSPHSAA Tournament to Binghamton two years ago.

The Ryans and Sacred Heart hope to form their own unforgettable moments in the Adirondacks like so many other basketball teams in the state.

“It was a goal of ours to get to this point,” Owens said. “For the sisters it’s especially important. … We just don’t want to be down there and be happy we’re in the Federation. We plan to compete.”

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