The Winters girls basketball team finished the 2019-2020 season with a 16-17 record, which isn’t indicative of the true success the team experienced this year.
The seniors on the team, Marley Smith, Karlee Busher, Jezebel Gonzalez, Gracie Reyes and Skylar Lee are gathered in coach Postell’s office to talk about their season. The team chemistry is obvious from the minute you walk into the office and it’s been obvious all season. Their season has ended but their camaraderie and friendship continue, but most of all, the mutual respect between coach and his players stands out.
Busher said one of the reasons for the success and closeness of the team was time spent in the offseason, “We got used to playing together over the summer.” Smith and Reyes agreed with Busher and said that the additional playing time benefitted the team. Reyes says that the bond was stronger this year, “We bonded as a team a lot more than last year because of the time we put in together over the summer.” Smith said that there was one more significant contributing factor, “We all wanted the same thing; we all wanted to win.” Gonzalez winning was important for another reason as well, “It’s our last year together and we wanted to win.”
The communication between the players while they were on the court was another change this year. Last season Smith would be bringing the ball up the court and all 5 players would be looking to coach Postell. This year the players were looking at Smith. Busher said that improved communication was a byproduct of their time together this summer, “The more we learned about each other, the more our communication improved.” It could also be said that the more their communication improved, the more they learned about each other.
Postell said that the teams skills got better collectively and individually, “We did a lot of work during the summer and worked on skill development. At the end of the day you have to play together and grow together, and that’s what these girls did.” Smith said that the team as a whole decided to work harder, “We worked hard together to win more games and that is why we fought until the end of each game.”
The town of Winters also took notice of the girls’ success this season. Busher said that people came up to her to comment on the game. Lee said that it happened to her as well, “I’d be somewhere and people I don’t know would come up to me and tell me that we played hard and had a good game.” All of the girls’ agree that each player adopted Postell’s mind-set, “Keep working. Stay focused. Don’t give up.” Postell talked about keeping the team up when they were behind, “I tell the girls that you’re only going to make 40% of your shots, on average. If you miss a shot, keep shooting; don’t give up; don’t quit.”
The girls also agreed that having a vocal leader was important to the success that they had. Lee said leadership began at the front, “You need a vocal leader to motivate people. A vocal leader is important but you have to be friends on the court and off the court for the chemistry to work. You can’t just be out there yelling at people.” Busher said that last year played an important role in this year’s turn around, “It took last year to make this year what it was. I felt that we played better together this year.” Smith agreed, “We went from being a losing team to being a winning team. I’ll always carry that with me the rest of my life.” Lee said that one game in particular taught them some lessons, “Our game against Eldorado taught us to focus. Coach always tell us to focus and that game was what showed us the importance of focusing.”
The girls started off the season with a 54-42 loss against a strong Blackwell team. The girls shook that loss off and then reeled off 6 straight wins against Roscoe, Coleman, Hamlin, Sterling City, Grape Creek and Bangs, respectively. They dropped their next game, 48-35, against Westbrook. They came right back with another win against Hamlin. The girls only had one 4-game losing streak all season.
They had some good showings against, Christoval, who eaked out a victory, 47-43, while Miles won 55-47 and Eldorado won 63-44. Ozona was the unfortunate victim to the girls’ getting back to their winning ways, with the Lions falling to the Lady Blizzards 62-31. They last to some traditionally strong teams by the narrowest of margins. They fell to Albany by 2 points, Veribest by 4 points and Eldorado by 3 points. The girls had winning in their sights in each of those games. If you compare streaks and losses to the 2018-2019 season, you see that the girls went 9-22 and 1-9 in district. They had three, 3-game losing streaks and an 8-game losing streak that season. Some of the losses included a 36-point loss to Blackwell, 21 points to Roscoe, 19 points to Water Valley, 36 points to Ballinger, 38 points to Colorado (City), 47 points to San Saba, 36 points to San Angelo TLCA and a 41-point loss to Christoval. The girls bounced back with style this year and hammered teams that came in expecting to walk away with victories. Teams that had defeated the girls by double-digit scores in 2019, lost by double digit scores to the Lady Blizzards this year.
One area where the girls vastly improved this year was in rebounding, especially offensive rebounds. As soon as a shot left the fingertips of the shooter, the girls collapsed to the basket, blocking out even the most aggressive opponents. Gonzalez that they worked on rebounding a lot, “This year our workout plan was more advanced. It involved working more on rebounding and shooting.” Smith said that the girls reviewed each game afterward, “We’d look at our stats and find out what we needed to improve on.” Lee said that approach was integral to their success, especially in rebounding, “I think our rebounding was the most important reason that we won more games this season. We really worked on it.”
Postell said that the practices were keyed around the skill drills. Lee said the team bought into Postell’s approach, “We developed our skills working on our individual jobs. Each day we went into practice and worked on our part of the team’s success.” Gonzalez said Postell’s philosophy was simple, “You play like you practice.”
Postell’s approach is not the screaming and yelling stereotypical basketball coaching style. No matter how heated a game was, Postell would always show a calm and focused attitude, living what he preached to his players. In many games when teams get down by double-digits late in the game, they can lose their composure. Pretty soon technical fouls follow. That wasn’t the way of the Lady Blizzards. The Lady Blizzards never let things get out of control, even when the ball wasn’t going into the basket and officiating seemed to be stacked against them. Smith said that Postell’s philosophy was simple, “All refs suck so it’s not going to get worse. Coach always tell us, ‘Let me worry about the refs.’” Gonzalez said that mentality was important, “You can’t let the refs in your head.”
Smith said Postell’s coaching style translated to success for the team, “I think coach wishes that he had us a freshmen and I know that we wish that we had had him. We would have been so much better.” Lee said Postell focuses more on teaching, “He’s relaxed and doesn’t scream. When he calls a timeout, he lets us catch our breath and then tells us what to do. He always encourages us.” Smith said that Postell has always supported the team in every way, “Like Skylar said, he always encourages us. He’s always been there for us. We’ve bonded with him and he’s bonded with us. It’s one reason that we became better in his 2nd year here.”
This season the girls had a different demeanor on the court. During the games, Smith would be smiling as she was bringing the ball up the court, smiling in the face of the opponent, never showing worry or concern. Busher commented on Smith’s style, “She’s a completely different player when she’s not smiling. When she’s smiling, she’s playing good.” Lee said that having fun was important, “If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.” That is approach is something that Smith said has always been part of her style, “I love playing basketball and that’s just how I am.”
The season came down to showdown against Miles in Blackwell. The game was as fierce and as physical as they get. The teams traded blows back and forth and went into halftime tied at 39 apiece. In the end Miles ended up taking home an 8-point win but the Lady Blizzards, just as they have done all season, fought until the last second. Lee commented about their loss, “The saddest part of losing was knowing that we aren’t ever going to play together again. But, the cool part is that coach knows us and he knows how to help us feel better.”
In May the girls will graduate and move on to the next phase of their respective lives. Lee is headed to Angelo State University where she’s going to pursue a degree in kinesiology to eventually become a physical therapist. Smith is also going to head to Angelo State as well, where she’ll be sharing a dorm room with Lee. Smith is also going to major in kinesiology and wants to become an occupational therapist. Gonzalez is going down the road to Cisco College where she will study to become a surgical tech. Busher is headed to Texas Tech to study agricultural communication. Reyes will be attending Temple College to pursue a degree in nursing.
Wherever life takes the girls, they’ll always have that magical senior year of basketball. Postell and the girls reached deep and left everything out on the court at the end of the season. They never took a play off and never accepted defeat, battling to the end in every game.