The rivalry was everything that it was cracked up to be, and then some, when the Winters Lady Blizzards traveled to Miles for a face off with the Lady Dogs on Werner Harsch court.
The Winters Lady Blizzards (14-15, 2-5 district) have fought to stay at 500 most of the season, while the Miles Lady Dogs (10-16, 2-5 district) were on course to try and upset Winters’ playoff hopes and earn some redemption. On January 14th, the Lady Dogs lost to the Lady Blizzards by a score of 55-49. This game was a vindication for Miles and the ladies fought every second. Both teams had commendable performances and neither team gave up any easy points.
Miles was coming off of a 47-29 thumping at the hands of Forsan on January 28th. Coming off of that loss and facing down a team that had defeated them a mere 2 weeks ago had the excitement amped up to epic levels. Winters was coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Christoval, where they lost 47-43 on January 28th.
The Winters fans and Miles fans chanted back and forth, challenging each other to be louder. It was an energy that was fed by the frenetic playing on the court.
The game began with the Lady Dogs putting up 8 points before Winters made their first bucket. Winters put their first points on the board halfway into the 1st period when they brought the score to 8-2. Miles put up 6 more points before Winters scored their second bucket with just over 2 minutes left in the period, making the score 14-4. The Lady Blizzards hit 2 more shots before the end of the period, while the Lady Dogs would add just 1 more point. The period would end with the score 15-8.
The glaring issue of that period was the fouls. Miles committed 2 fouls while the Lady Blizzards committed 8 fouls. Miles fast-paced play caused Winters to reach in or commit other fouls to prevent easy buckets and breakaway plays.
The Miles defense was stingy the entire game, but that didn’t stop the Lady Blizzards from getting of some quality shots.
Winters would put up the first 2 points of the 2nd period to cut the Miles lead down to 15-10. The game was played at a break-neck pace, both teams playing solid defense and creating turnovers. With 4 minutes to go in the period, the score was 21-13 when Miles’ junior guard Alexa Schwertner knocked down a beautiful, arcing 3-point shot to make the score 24-13. Winters would answer with a 3-point shot of their own to try and keep pace with the Lady Dogs making the score at 24-16.
Before the half, Miles would add 5 additional points and go into halftime with a 2-16 lead.
The 3rd period began with Winters knocking down a quick bucket to cut into Miles’ lead, 29-18. The Lady Blizzards would add a free throw to their total before Miles went into overdrive. The score was 29-19 when the Lady Dogs found another gear and quickly increased their lead 36-22 in just over 2 minutes. The Lady Dogs would continue to fight and force Winters to try and stop the onslaught. The 3rd period ended with Miles up 40-27, but no lead, however big and regardless of how little time is left, is safe when Miles and Winters play each other.
It would be easy to say that Miles owned the 4th period, winning by a score up 55-27. But, the truth is, Winters put 20 points of their own on the board in that period. The Lady Blizzards fought tooth and nail until the very end. The score isn’t indicative of how close the game was with Winters pulling within 4 points with 4:51 left on the clock. Miles had a scoring surge and scored 15 points in the period, compared to the 20 scored by Winters.
Neither team ever gave up and even when Miles had stretched their lead out, they played hard on every possession. They continued to create turnovers, which, in turn, created high-percentage scoring opportunities. The Lady Blizzards never stopped fighting, even when Miles pulled ahead by double digits. They fought to bring the game within 4 points on 2 different occasions.
The star for Winters was senior point guard Marley Smith #13. Smith spent a lot of time guarding Miles’ senior point guard Skyler Brooks #21, and that’s no easy task. Brooks is fast and she thinks ahead while the defender is concentrating simply on trying to keep pace with her. Brooks’ has exceptional ball-handling skills and can make a bounce pass between a defender’s legs or power into the middle and kick the ball out to the perimeter. Brooks always draws a double team but the strength she possesses is hard for defenders to contend with. Defenders getting caught flat-footed or on their heels when Brooks comes at them are asking to get their ankles twisted up.
Smith is an offensive force in her own right. She too draws double and triple teams and she’s strong. She has powerful legs that propel her towards the basket and she has the shoulders to put the ball up even when double and triple teamed. She leads the Lady Blizzards and it’s obvious that she is the heart and soul of that team.
Miles also had Schwertner knocking down perimeter shots while sophomore power forward Regan Smithwick made consistent shots from the paint. Smithwick also had several blocked shots on defense, including one on Smith. It’s not just Smithwick’s size advantage that causes her to be a top-level defender, it’s also her technique. Her game has improved a great deal since her freshman effort last year. She’s become solid at blocking out players around the rim and she’s not afraid of contact. Senior guard Tycie Lange also had a great game. Lange can play inside or outside equally well. She hit some shots from the 3-point line as well as shucking-and-jiving her way inside for layups or short jumpers. Lange is lithe, quick and skilled in all areas so it’s hard for defenders to contend with her while also having to deal with Smithwick, Brooks, Schwertner and senior guard Kylie Crocker #4. The Lady Dogs’ 10-15 record is not indicative of the skill and talent that the team possesses. The 5 seniors on the team have a great deal of experience and that won’t be easy to replace next season. If the Lady Dogs can get it all put together before playoffs, they could make a strong run and go deep. Miles was bitten by the injury bug when Allie Kalina went down with a concussion earlier and isn’t cleared to play yet. Kalina adds an entirely different dimension to the team.
Winters’ Jezebel Gonzalez has been a quiet force on the team. She just does her job and she plays hard, just like Smith. Another solid performer on the Lady Blizzards’ team is senior guard #11 Karlee Busher. Like Smith, Busher is a player who pushes the action and isn’t afraid of contact. Her physicality is an immense asset to the team. Gonzalez hit a couple of 3-point shots in this game and opened up the floor.
Lady Blizzards coach Brandon Postell said that the team played hard and fought the entire game, “We’re going to continue to fight through adversity. It was one of those things you had to push through because you’re not always going to get those calls. We missed some easy buckets and missed a couple of key free throws but we’re getting there. The fouls were 30-14 and when you’re faced with those kinds of odds in a hostile environment you have to play perfectly.” Postell also spoke of the work ahead for the Lady Blizzards, “It’s learning our lessons going forward. We’re still in the thick of things and we still have to go win some more games to solidify our playoff hopes.”