Blizzards & Lady Blizzards triumph

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

Anyone who was at the basketball games in Miles on Tuesday night saw a spectacular show between the Winters Lady Blizzards (3-16, 1-4) and Miles Lady Dogs (3-8, 0-3). Both teams played exceptionally hard throughout the entire game. In the end, the Blizzards' ladies came away with a 40-35 win.

Winters Lady Blizzards' Kacie Lindley brings the ball down the court against Miles Lady Dogs senior Alexa Schwertner.

The Blizzards jumped out to a quick lead against the Lady Dogs but Miles answered and held the lead, 6-5, a couple of minutes into the 1st period. Those 6 points are all that Miles would score in that first period as the Lady Blizzards took a 12-6 lead.

In the 2nd period, both teams got on track on the offensive side. Each time that Miles cut the Lady Blizzards' lead to a single point, Winters answered back and would extend the lead back out to 3 or 4 points. The first half ended with Winters ahead, 19-14.

Miles Lady Dog Jessica Hinds is blocked in by the Lady Blizzards' Maelynn Gonzalez and Valentina Costa during the Lady Blizzards 40-35 win over the Lady Dogs.

The 3rd period was the fireworks show. Both of the teams kept the pressure on each other. Whether defense or offense, both squads pushed the ball up and down the court with tenacity. By the end of the 3rd period Miles had taken a 26-21 lead.

Winters came storming back in the 4th period after Miles went up 32-29. The speed and pressure of the Winters offense resulted in several Lady Dogs fouls. Winters would score on a couple of free throws and eventually take a 33-32 lead. The game went back and forth for the next 2 minutes. At one point, Miles was up 35-33 when the Lady Blizzards' Querstin Lara stole the ball and dropped in the bucket for 2 points. The score was tied 35-35 with just over 1 minute to play.

Miles Lady Dogs' Natalie Fernandez is met in the paint by the Winters Lady Blizzards' Saleen Jalomo during the Lady Dogs' 35-40 loss.

Winters found the next gear and went into overdrive to seal the game. The ladies put up shot after shot with confidence then quickly transitioned to play a stifling defense. That defense kept Miles from making a basket the last 90 seconds of the game.

The Miles size advantage didn't deter Winters in the least. Winters coach Brandon Postell spoke after the game, "We've been close in every game. The biggest thing for us if figuring out how to finish a game. We have to learn to finish the game with the same intensity that we started it with. That's what I told them at halftime. Finish how you start."

Miles Lady Dogs' Regan Smithwick gets a clean block on Winters' Maelynn Gonzalez. The Lady Blizzards would end up triumphing, 40-35.

Postell also commented about their style of play, "We're going to play hard. It's just that we're a young team. It's about understanding how to play hard and stay in the game. We have a lot of freshmen so we're going to have some growing pains, that's all that it is." Postell pointed out the speed and quickness advantage that his team has, "I told them that there will be times when they're going to go big, but, for the most part, we're going to see how good Miles' athleticism is. We're just countered it with our speed. I told the girls that if we can get up and down the court before Miles can, then we can stop them from setting up for shots. That 2-3 zone is hard to score on."

The game was fought tooth and nail by both teams. Each team kept a high energy level up during the entire game. It was a step in the right direction for Winters, who faded after the 1st period in the January 8, game against Roscoe. In this game, they only seemed to get stronger as the game went on.

Miles was dealt a severe blow when star Allie Kalina went down with a knee injury just over 2 minutes into the game. Kalina is part of the heart and soul of the Lady Dogs. It would be a tough blow to the team if the multiple sport star is lost for the season.

This is a rebuilding year for both teams who graduated a significant amount of experience last year. While they aren't having as much success as they'd like this year, their future is bright. Winters will lose 3 seniors in May; Laken Green, Lara and Kaitlyn Fuentes, but they have some stars ready to shine. Freshman Kacie Lindley was fearless as she put up shot after shot. She also managed to steal the ball several times thanks to her blanketing defense. Lindley wasn't the biggest player on the floor, but she effectively guarded experienced Lady Bulldogs players such as Alexa Schwertner and Natalie Fernandez. Her horizontal speed kept here in front of the offense, cutting off lanes to the basket and forcing low-percentage shots.

Winters Freshman Kacie Lindley was out-sized, but not outmatched against the Miles Lady Dogs. Here, she guards Mile's Regan Smithwick as Smithwick takes the ball up the court during the Lady Dogs 35-40 loss.

The future of the Lady Blizzards is in good hands with Lindley, as well as Maelynn Gonzalez, Salene Jalomo, Valentina Costa and the other up-and-comers. The point guard and shooting guard positions are well stocked with Lady Blizzards players ready to take the game to the next level.

Miles also has a bright future. Kendall Kelly and Schwertner are seniors this year. It's hard to replace talent and leadership like that but the Lady Dogs have Kalina, Smithwick, Fernandez, Kaleigh Elliott, Emily Sklenarik and newcomer Grace Schwertner to build on. Smithwick gives the team some significant power in the paint and is getting better at blocking out opponents with each game.

Like with Smithwick, Sklenarik has power and size. She's also a good shooter. Fernandez is an above-average quick thinking point guard with quick hands, able to punch the ball out of an opponent's hands in the blink of an eye. She isn't afraid to power the ball into the paint for layups or step back and take a 12' jump shot. Fernandez has also improved defending around the basket. She's tough and has shown a willingness to step in and take a charge.

Mark your calendars. January 29, the Blizzards host the Bulldogs in the season finale. They might have saved the best for last.

Here is how they finish out the season:

Winters: 1/15 @ Forsan; 1/19 @ Coleman; 1/22 vs Colorado; 1/26 @ Roscoe; 1/29 vs Miles.

Miles: 1/14 vs Colorado; 1/19 @ Roscoe; 1/28 vs Coleman (TBA); 1/29 @ Winters.

2A Region I District 8 Girls Basketball Standings (as of January 14):

Colorado: 6-7, 4-1

Forsan: 12-4, 3-1

Roscoe: 8-6, 3-2

Coleman: 4-11, 2-3

Winters: 1-4, 3-16

Miles: 3-8, 0-3

Blizzards double up Bulldogs 62-31.

The girls' game was a hard game to follow, but the Blizzards (15-3, 3-0) and Bulldogs (8-3, 0-1) didn't disappoint. Both teams were pretty evenly matched in size and speed. The edge in experience went to Miles, who started 4 seniors: Kyle Vahlenkamp; Brayden Dunlap; Brandon Rodriguez and Colin Steward; Winters started 2 seniors; Alex Salas and Malakye Kelly. In all, Miles has 14 players on their roster, compared to 8 for Winters. Each team had an impressive record, with just 3 losses for Winters and 2 losses for Miles.

Winters' Alex Salas weaves through traffic on his way to a layup during the Blizzards' 62-31 win.

Just as with with the girls' game, both teams started off fast, trading jab-for-jab as the lead seesawed back and forth. Both teams had strong shooting, but consistency was key. Winters was consistent the entire game, where Miles endured some long scoreless droughts. When the Bulldogs would get some momentum it would be stopped by a foul or turnover.

Miles' Hayven Book gets off a shot before Winters' Chaney Bahlman could get the block.

The Bulldogs were putting up plenty of shots, they just weren't going in. Dependable shooters such as Brandon Rodriguez, Kyle Vahlenkamp, Shelton Petrey and Hayden Johnson were getting to the basket, but the Winters defense collapsed on them quickly, not allowing any easy layups or uncontested shots. Petrey was a fixture in the paint, but each time he got the ball 3 or 4 Blizzards smothered him in defense.

The Winters defense was more than formidable in their 62-31 win against the Miles Bulldogs. The Bulldogs rarely got off an uncontested shot.

The Blizzards, led by Alex Salas and Jon Kullen Busher, never slowed their game down. They kept the pressure on the Bulldogs the entire game. The Blizzards' quickness and speed caused fouls by Miles on defense and forced turnovers and mistakes on offense. Busher and Salas were able to get to the basket repeatedly. If they found resistance around the rim they kicked the ball out to one of their dependable shooters Malakye Kelly, Dayvin Oats, Mason Crowe or Aidan Leamon.

A Miles Bulldogs player finds a wall of Blizzards defenders during the Bulldogs 62-31loss.

It seemed like the Blizzards scored on every shot that they took. When the 1st period ended, the Blizzards turned up the heat on both ends of the court. They were able to hold Miles to 17 points in the first half, while putting up 27 points of their own.

Winters' Jon Kullen Busher gets through traffic to kiss a layup off the glass during Winters 62-31win over the Bulldogs.

Winters came out of halftime on fire. The defense held Miles to just 3 points in the 3rd period as Winters blasted away with 20 points and extended their lead to 47-10.

The Bulldogs got their scoring going again in the 4th period, although it wasn't enough to overcome the deficit. They added 11 points in the period, while the Blizzards scored 15 points of their own to end the game doubling up the Bulldogs, 62-31.

Winters' Alex Salas stops and pops a short jumper against the Miles Bulldogs. The Blizzards ended up winning the game, 62-31.

The Bulldogs have been playing solid basketball all season. This loss may just be a hiccup for them when it's all said and done. Miles coach Kully Hoffpauir is sure to right the ship and get the team back on track to continue their district run.

Miles' Colin Steward is blocked cleanly by Winters' Chaney Bahlman during the Blizzards 62-31 win.

The Blizzards defense is stifling, only falling to Rankin, Ballinger and Christoval, 3 powerhouse teams. Head basketball coach Colton Holmes has done a remarkable job getting the right lineup in place and developing the team into a contender. It seemed that the Blizzards could do no wrong against Miles and should be able to carry that momentum deep into district play.

Here is how they finish out the season:

Winters: 1/15 @ Forsan; 1/19 @ Coleman; 1/22 vs Colorado; 1/26 @ Roscoe; 1/29 vs Miles; 2/2 vs Forsan 2/5 vs Coleman.

Miles: 1/15 vs Colorado; 1/19 @ Roscoe; 1/22 vs Coleman; 1/23 @ Forsan; 1/26 vs Forsan; 1/2 @ Coleman; 1/29 @ Winters; 2/2 @ Colorado; 2/5 vs Roscoe