Winters Blizzards down Miles Bulldogs again in boys basketball
Earlier this month, on January 12, the Miles Bulldogs (11-7, 3-5) hosted the Winters Blizzards (19-4, 7-1), in a game where the Blizzards ended up doubling the Bulldogs' score, 62-31. Overall, though, it's been a solid season for both squads with Winters sitting at the top of District 8-2A basketball standings.
On January 29, it was the Blizzards' turn to host the Bulldogs. Friday's game was expected to be a tougher go for the Blizzards, even on their home court where they've lost only a single game this season.
Miles, meanwhile, has won five of its eight road games behind a team that plays fast from start to finish. Unfortunately, this game was more of what they experienced on that January 12 game. This time they fell by the score of 54-33.
Both teams have offenses that can score a lot of points in a few minutes. The Blizzards have put up a respectable 51 points per game this season while their defense is holding opponents to 33 points. Miles has been potent as well, scoring an average of 53 points, while surrendering 48 points.
Winters is excellent at exploiting weaknesses behind a defense that can smother opponents. The Blizzards double team shooters while rotating to ensure that no shooter goes unguarded. They stifle opponents when they're playing defense and leave their opponents scratching their head when they're on offense. They have all the tools with speed, size, athleticism, quickness, scoring ability and great coaching.
Led by senior Alex Salas, the Blizzards waste no time getting up and down the court. Salas is equally lethal, whether heading into the paint or pulling up for a jump shot. Perhaps his greatest strength is his eyes. When opponents are on offense, Salas is watching and deciding if he's going to try to go up for a rebound or race down the court for a pass from one of his teammates. He has played behind opposing teams more than he's played in front of them, racking up points by the truckload. The Blizzards' rebounding game allows for a lot of those quick baskets on the other end of the court. They run the fast break as well as anyone in their district.
The Bulldogs have good size, great speed, excellent athleticism and solid coaching as well. They've been better on offense than they have been on defense this season. Much of this can be attributed to the players and Miles ISD, overall, being shutdown for COVID during the season. Nevertheless, the squad has shown resiliency and a never-quit attitude.
It was a combination of factors that led to the Bulldogs' defeat on Friday. Winters was getting quick buckets, many of which came on the aforementioned fast breaks. The Blizzards' batteries never run down, as they play a stepped up pace the entire game. Their conditioning is superb. Coach Colton Holmes has built a team around their strengths, while limiting their weaknesses. The Blizzards have also proven to be potent at the free throw line. They showed why they're at the top of the district and could go deep into the playoffs, hitting free throw after free throw.
The Bulldogs, behind up-and-comers, sophomores Shelton Petrey and Auden Torres, have shown that they have the ability to win the rebounding game. Torres is fearless, heading into the paint like a bull, moving to contact. Stalwarts Kyle Vahlenkamp, Kolt Waltz, Brayden Dunlap, Brandon Rodriguez and Colin Steward have been playing together for several years and feed off of one another. When they're hitting on all cylinders they're unstoppable.
The Blizzards have solid leadership with Salas and fellow senior Malakye Kelly. Salas has excellent speed and the ability to open up the floor, while Kelly's precise passing offers frequent open shots. He's got quick feet, able to stop on a dime. He's also dependable with the ball, rarely turning it over.
One of the best overall athletes in the district is Jon Kullen Busher. On defense he menaces players, forcing them into mistakes and getting takeaway after takeaway. On offense he's a true baller, but when paired with Salas, they form an almost unstoppable duo. You won't find a player who can outplay Busher. His tenacity, athleticism and ability are superb. He's also excellent at rebounding, establishing his position under the basket early to block out opposing players. If he gets the rebound, it's almost a sure bet that Salas is already at half court, waiting on the outlet pass and fast break.
The Blizzards played behind the Bulldogs' defense for most of the game. To the Bulldogs' credit, down by 15, coach Kully Hoffpauir rallied the team during a timeout, "You have 15 points in you. You can do this. You just have to believe in yourselves." The team was able to pull within 8 points before Winters hit a run to finish out the game.
One thing great teams do well is make adjustments. The Blizzards adjusted their game, picked up the tempo and were able to pull away by the end of the game. They're equally lethal whether on offense or defense.