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Basketball Roundup

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

It's been a year of challenges in every aspect of life, particularly in high school sports. Due to COVID, the teams didn't have as much practice as they'd normally have had before their respective seasons began. Almost every team has also had to contend with the absence of players and coaches from time to time due quarantine caused by the COVID virus.

Ballinger's Jewel Klaras takes a hard foul against Veribest on December 8. The Lady Cats held the Falcons to 12 points in the first half, but fell short, 32-28 when the final buzzer sounded.

Even with those challenges, in the face of adversity, many of the teams in Runnels County have found ways to win.

Ballinger Bearcats

The Bearcats' boys are off to a great start, currently sitting at 8-0 as of the printing of this edition. It hasn't been a cakewalk for them by any means. Along the way this season they've defeated a strong 7-3 Breckenridge Buckaroos team, the 6-2 Miles Bulldogs, and the 5-2 Christoval Cougars.

On Friday the Bearcats will host a formidable Winters Blizzards team that only has one loss on the season. Ballinger is averaging an impressive 58.3 points on 37% field goal shooting this season. They're also averaging almost 28 rebounds per game.

Jonathan Delgado leads the scoring with an average of 18 points per game. Delgado is also averaging 29.9 minutes per game. Behind Delgado, Kenjrick Manley is averaging 13.5 points per game while averaging over 31 minutes of playing time. Ryan Elliott is averaging 12.1 points per game and averaging just under 29 minutes of playing time. Elliott is also averaging a respectable 5.9 steals per game. Delgado is second in steals, with 5.1 per game, while Manley is averaging 4.6 steals.

Delgado has proven to be a force when it comes to pulling down rebounds. Delgado is averaging a healthy 6.6 rebounds per game, while Elliott is hauling in 5.8 rebounds per game, respectively. Manley leads in offensive rebounds, with an average of 2.8 per game.

The defense has been strong as well, stifling other teams down the stretch, allowing Ballinger to keep comfortable leads in most of their games. Regardless of who they play, they always perform at a high level, wearing down other teams to bring home 30+ point wins.

After the game against Winters, the Bearcats will host Coleman to take on the 5-1 Bluecats on December 28. On January 2, the Bearcats will travel to take on the 6-2 Clyde Bulldogs. The Clyde game will be followed by another tough game when they host the Brady Bulldogs.

Ballinger Lady Cats

The Lady Cats have dropped some close games this season. They've played hard every minute of their games, with their offense either hitting on all cylinders of fizzing out. Against Veribest on December 8th, the Lady Cats took a 26-12 lead into halftime. Their defense was blanketing every Falcon player as they didn't allow any uncontested shots in that first half. But, the game was a tale of two halves. In the 2nd half, the Lady Cats couldn't buy a bucket. Veribest hit shot after shot while the cold streak for Ballinger continued. The ladies didn't put a point in the 3rd period as Veribest cut the lead to 26-19.

Ballinger's junior point guard, Jenna Battle, makes room around a Veribest defender during the game on December 8.

In the 4th period, Ballinger scored 6-points, falling 32-28 to a Falcons team that improved to a perfect 8-0 on the season.

The Lady Cats are only giving up an average of 30 points per game, while putting up an average of 42 points per game. Their defense is formidable, a tough challenge for any team, as Veribest discovered in the first half of their game against Ballinger. When the defense cools off, the offense has shown a tendency to follow. They have resolve and can tough it out most games, but against teams like Veribest who have the ability to bounce back, it can be problematic, at best.

The Ballinger Lady Cats' defense has smothered the offenses of other teams. They collapse to the basket, preventing easy layups and  forcing opponents to pass the ball around outside of the key.

The ladies bounced back from the Veribest game with a convincing 59-32 win against Early.

On Friday the girls will travel to take on a winless Grape Creek Eagles team.  On December 22, the girls will travel to take on a Jim Ned team that only has 1 loss on the season. It will be a good barometer game for the Lady Cats.

Winters Lady Blizzards

It has been a tough year for Winters Lady Blizzards coach Brandon Postell. He had 5 seniors graduate in May and only has 3 seniors on the squad this season. The ladies have managed to win 2 games, dropping 10 along the way. Both of their wins came against Abilene Christian.

Postell knows how to bring a team together and create cohesiveness. It's always tough when you graduate all of your starters, but it's an opportunity for others to step up. Last season the Lady Blizzards went 16-17 in a demanding season with a grinding schedule. At the end of last season I spoke with the seniors who all agreed that they wanted their legacy to be one of teamwork and a strong work ethic. That has carried over into this season, even if the results haven't been what they'd like them to be.

This season, the graduation of those seniors, coupled with the reduced practice time due to COVID, has the Lady Blizzards looking for ways to gel. Last season, senior Marley Smith said that the team had improved because they had that previous summer to work together and bond. This team didn't have that opportunity.

Postell is a chess player in a game of checkers. He analyzes the technical aspects of each game. The 2020 seniors said that Postell analyzed the stats from their games and would work on weaknesses over the summer and in practice during the season. The season still has a long way to go and if anyone can right the ship, it's coach Postell.

Winters Blizzards

The Winters Blizzards' boys basketball team has already had an incredible season. So far they're 8-1 behind a defensive juggernaut that has held most teams to under 30 points. When you couple that defense with an offense that has weapons in every position, defeating the Blizzards becomes almost impossible.

The boys are only allowing 28.7 points per game, while scoring an average of 51.1 points. Finding a way to defeat the Blizzards has proven to be an insurmountable task for all but one of their opponents, which was the 1-loss Rankin Red Devils. The Blizzards dropped that game 56-53.

The Blizzards have commanded the rebounding game, far outpacing their opponents on both offensive and defensive boards. They're strong around the rim, blocking out opponents under the rim to pull down those rebounds, particularly offensive rebounds.

On the offensive side, they have the ability to consistently knock down shots from around the court. Getting blocked out under the rim when they're driving the ball is balanced by their ability to kick the ball out to another player to knock down a short jumper or who cuts the ball in for a quick layup.

On Friday, the boys will go into Ballinger to take on a ferocious Bearcats team. It should be a close, hard-fought game. Neither team is willing to give an inch, which bodes well for fans of tough, physical basketball games. Emotions are sure to be running high with the rivals facing each other down on the hardwood.

On December 19, the Blizzards will host the Lueders-Avoca Raiders, a team without a win on the season. On December 21, the boys will travel to Christoval to take on a tough Cougars team. The following day they will host the struggling Eldorado Eagles. They'll travel to Bangs on December 29, then end the year on December 31, with a road trip against Post.

Miles Bulldogs

Miles boys basketball coach Kully Hoffpauir has the team off to a strong 6-2 start to their 2020-2021 season. This is no small feat considering that the Bulldogs graduated their on-floor leader, PG Davian Martinez in May. The 2019-2020 team had Martinez, along with seniors; Jose' Mata, Colton Wells, Reagan Briley and Stihl Hoffman. That is not an insignificant amount of talent to lose. This year the team is anchored by seniors Kyle Vahlenkamp as well as junior Hayden Johnson, sophomore Shelton Petrey and sophomore Carson Ellison. The Bulldogs' only loss was a 69-34 blowout to the Ballinger Bearcats.

So far this season, Johnson is averaging 10.7 points per game, Petrey is averaging 17.1 points while Ellison is averaging 10.6 points per game, respectively. Petrey leads the team with 8.6 rebounds per game, while senior Brandon Rodriguez is averaging 7.4 boards per game. Ellison leads the team in assists (4.4) and steals (4.1).

The Bulldogs have a solid foundation with which to build a successful season on. The core of their team keeps other players from easy layups. Part of their strength is forcing other teams to play the Bulldogs' game. Teams, not able to penetrate the staunch defense, end up kicking the ball out for lower percentage shots.

Once the Bulldogs smell blood, they spring to the offensive quickly, taking advantage of any opportunity. Their execution has been clean while their passing game has kept other defenses on their heels.

On Friday, the Bulldogs will host the winless Sonora Broncos. On December 28, they'll travel to take on the Water Valley Wildcats. They close out the year with a December 30, home game against Christoval.