Ballinger basketball, both varsity boys and girls, were hitting on all cylinders on Friday, January 17th. It was a special night for Ballinger High School as they honored longtime legendary coach, Robert Buxkemper, between the varsity games. Buxkemper retired from Ballinger in 2013 after 31 years as head basketball and track coach and assistant football coach, from 1981-2013. He’s a beloved local icon that many people attribute their own success in life to.
The varsity girls’ game got off to a slow start as both Ballinger and Reagan County looked to find their respective rhythm. Both teams showed a tenacious defense in the 1st period that limited the score to 8-5 in favor of Ballinger when the buzzer sounded. Ballinger would increase that 3-point lead over the next 3 periods.
In the 2nd period, Rosemary Delgado got the scoring going when she hit a 10’ jump shot to make the score 10-5. Neither team scored on the next 3 possessions. The scoring got going again when Lady Cats’ Jenna Battle cut inside for a layup and increased Ballinger’s lead, 12-5. Ballinger once again kept the Owls from scoring and were able to bring the ball back down the court where Delgado hit another jump shot, making the score 14-5.
The 2nd period was unkind to the Owls as they only put up 2 points and went into halftime down 18-7. Reagan County didn’t score those 2 points until there was less than a minute to play in the period.
One issue that Reagan County never seemed to consider was that they didn’t go out beyond the 3-point line to guard Bearcat players. This would prove disastrous for the Owls throughout the game. Leaving the Ballinger players, particularly Delgado, to bring the ball up to the 3-point line without defending them allowed players to create space. This can be a cardinal sin when you’re up against a powerhouse like Ballinger.
During the game the Owls tried to crowd the paint but Toliver was still able to get inside and score. It also left little space for the Owls to get out of each other’s way. Delgado would start at the top of the key, with 3’ or more of space between her and the nearest defender, and then make a pass to Battle who would then pass it back to Delgado as she cut inside. The Owls would try to double team Delgado but that would leave Toliver inside to take a quick pass and get a clean shot off. Delgado’s ability to penetrate the Owls defense seemingly at-will would cause the Owls a lot of confusion and leave their defensive effort in shambles. The one-two punch of Delgado and Toliver usually left Battle open on the wing for a shot. Battle showed a lot of selfless discipline during the entire game. Several times she went to put up a shot but saw an open player and made that extra pass that can be so critical to winning games.
The 3rd period was once again all Lady Cats. Reagan County scored the first 2 points of the period to make the score 18-9 but then the Lady Cats took control. The Ballinger girls dominated time and time again on both ends of the court. The game was 22-9 when Lady Cat Chelsea Martinez was fouled. She hit both free throws to increase the Lady Cats’ lead 24-9. Reagan County called a time out and a very frustrated Owls coach passionately preached defense to his team. After the time out the Lady Cats held the Owls without a bucket and went back down the floor to add 2 more points, making the score 27-9. On the other end of the floor Ballinger held the Owls scoreless and brought the ball back up the court where Reagan County committed another shooting foul. Ballinger then hit 1 of 2 free throws.
With just under 3 minutes to go in the period, Delgado was brought out for a rest. Her offense was impressive but was surpassed by her defensive prowess. Delgado, Battle, Toliver, Martinez and others blanketed each Owls player anytime they had the ball. They rotated well on passes and cut off the lane. Very few of the Owls’ shots were taken within 10’ of the basket. This forced them to take low percentage shots and anytime they got the ball in the lane the Bearcat girls collapsed on them, suffocating any offensive opportunities. Ballinger brought the score up to 32-11 when the Owls’ Shyan Darr hit a 3-point shot with 10 seconds to go in the period, ending the period at 32-14.
Perhaps the 4th period was the most unkind period to Reagan County as they failed to put any points on the board while allowing Ballinger to add 15 points to their lead. Ballinger’s dominance gave them a 47-14 win over the Owls.
The credit for Reagan County goes to their ‘never give up’ attitude. The girls never stopped giving it their all, even when the game was out of reach. Two of the Owls players went down with injuries but eventually came back into the game, demonstrating their toughness and resilience.
The Owls have 7 seniors on their team compared to Ballinger’s 3 seniors. Even with all of that experience in the Owls favor they couldn’t find a crack in the dam against a dominating Ballinger team. Ballinger is now 14-11 overall and 5-0 in district play.
On January 24th, the Lady Cats will travel to face a strong Sonora team (14-12 overall, 4-2 district). Sonora has been putting up an average of 40.5 points in each game this season. They’ve also had some poor outings, scoring only 15 points against Eula back in December. Sonora defeated Grape Creek 38-2 on January 17th.
Ballinger Boys take the hoot out of the Reagan County Owls
The Ballinger Bearcats boys’ varsity basketball team has become masters of the fast break. The Bearcats (17-7 overall, 2-1 in district) soundly defeated the Reagan County Owls (9-14 overall, 0-3 in district) 72-19 on January 17th.
The game got off to a fast start for the Bearcats as Jon Delgado led an offense that put 19 points up in the 1st period. He also hit a last second 3-point shot to close out the period.
Any missed shot by the Owls was punished by the Bearcats fast breaks that regularly resulted in points on the board. Delgado, Garrett Dixon, Kenjrik Manley, James Washington, Ian Gressett, DJ Cavazos and Adrian Anene moved the ball with determination each time they had it. The Ballinger bench players got considerable playing time and were on par with the starters.
The Bearcats never took a play off and kept the pressure on the Owls for the entire game. Anene dominated in the paint, both offensively and defensively. The 6’5” senior proved too much for the Owls to handle. As with the Lady Cats, the inside-outside game was hitting on all notes. With Anene dominating inside, the defense started collapsing on him each time he had the ball but his athleticism and skill overcame any attempts to defend against him.
Defenders double-teaming Anene opened up the outside game for players to take wide-open shots. Cavasos, Manley, Dixon, and pretty much every other Bearcats player were able to make space at will and get off some good shots.
The overwhelming advantage was in the conditioning of the Bearcats. They were able to run the floor time and time again, leaving the Owls’ players winded and standing with their hands on their hips at any break in the action. Ballinger’s boys made crisp, precision passes, regardless whether they were 6’ or 16’ away. Early on the Owls broke up a couple of the lengthy passes but when they got winded they were unable to get a hand on those passes. It seemed that as the Owls players tired, the Bearcats strengthened. Their energy level was intense as they kept the frenetic pace up the entire game.
Ballinger also dominated the Owls with their defense. Ballinger picked up the Owls players as soon as they inbounded the ball. The Bearcats had a full court press that the Owls couldn’t figure out how to contend with. No pass or shot attempt by the Owls went uncontested. The Owls tried making some long passes to bring the ball down the court against the suffocating Bearcat defense but these were either picked off or otherwise broken up.
Anene’s dominating defensive play in the paint resulted in the Owls having to take more shots from outside. The Bearcats didn’t give the Owls more than a handful of layup opportunities during the entire game. The Bearcat juggernaut forced mistake after mistake by Reagan County, resulting in them putting up only 4 points in the 1st period. Ballinger led 27-4 at the end of the 1st period and they never looked back on their way to the 72-19 win.
The Bearcats have lost some close game to traditionally dominating teams such as Wall (42-38), Jim Ned (42-36) and Crane (56-55). The Bearcats have also defeated some great teams, such as Cisco (59-48), Stamford (58-45), Merkel (59-29) and Westbrook (68-28). The Bearcats are putting up an impressive average of 57 points per game, while only giving up an average of 36 points.
There is no doubt that both the Ballinger boys and girls teams are at the top of the basketball food chain. They aren’t just contenders, they’re contenders that worry other teams.
The Ballinger varsity teams have worked on every aspect of their respective games. Offense, defense, transition, inside play, outside shooting, conditioning and confidence are traits and skill that both Ballinger teams possess in abundance. When the Bearcats and Lady Cats play against strong teams, Ballinger takes their own game up to the next level; steel sharpens steel.
The Bearcats next game is against San Angelo TLCA on January 21st. The Eagles’ Win-Loss record is incomplete due to some missing scores but the Bearcats are heavily favored to take that game. The Eagles only managed a meager 17-points while giving up 100 points against Permian on January 7th.
On a night that the school honored former coach Buxkemper, it only seems appropriate to close out this story with one of his quotes; “When you’re through improving, you’re through.”
Ballinger isn’t through improving.