Lady Spartans split conference games, prepare for postseason

Berthoud’s Sydney Meis takes a shot during the game against Frederick on Feb. 10.
Photo by Angie Purdy

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

With a spot in the postseason guaranteed, the Berthoud High School (BHS) girls basketball team has learned some valuable lessons in their two most recent games – one win and one loss – that they hope will aide them as they prepare to face the best of the best in the state tournament that begins on Feb. 21.

Berthoud rallied from an early double-digit deficit on Feb. 10 to beat Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) foe Frederick in the BHS gym by a 67-60 final. Tuesday, an early deficit brought about by too many turnovers and some serious struggles making baskets, proved a hole too deep for Berthoud to dig out of against TVC rival and No. 7 (4A) ranked Windsor; the Lady Spartans lost by a 58-38 final.

The games started in similar fashion, with the visitors jumping out to sizable first-quarter leads. Frederick was ahead 9-0 before Sydney Meis made the first bucket for Berthoud with 5:16 left in the first. Meis’ bucket was the beginning of a waterfall of points for the Lady Spartans, as Meis made three from downtown in the quarter, Kyleigh Milan scored on a rebound and put-back, and Sarah Howard added a pair of  jumpers to cut Frederick’s lead to just two, 20-18, at the end of the opening eight minutes.

“No defense, we didn’t get out and defend them, and we didn’t do anything on offense, they were just flat,” Berthoud Head Coach Randy Earl said of the opening quarter.

Berthoud’s defense tightened up, forcing the visiting Lady Warriors to miss six-straight shots, while Emily Cavey made good on a pair of free-throws and Meis’ fourth trey of the half gave Berthoud their first lead of the game, 25-23. In the final half of the second quarter, Meis, Cavey and Caisey Ellis combined for a perfect six-for-six effort from the charity stripe and the Lady Spartans took a 37-32 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Howard, who scored a season-high 16 points and paced the Lady Spartans with nine rebounds and two steals, explained the team has truly begun to function as a cohesive unit. Said the versatile senior, “It was a very different team dynamic to begin the year, because we lost a lot of seniors. So it was very difficult to work that team dynamic in at the beginning of the year. We had some trouble communicating and things like that … I definitely think that as the season has gone forward we’ve become more of a unit as a team, honestly now it’s just the same as it was last year.”

Berthoud pulled away in the third period, a three-pointer from Ashlee Burdette and buckets from Cavey, Howard and Milan, coupled with stifling defense, saw the Lady Spartans hold a 52-38 lead after three. A late surge by Frederick allowed the visitors to escape with some pride as Berthoud took the game 67-60.

Hosting archrival Windsor Tuesday, however, proved to be a different story as the top-10 ranked Lady Wizards are a deeper, more athletic and talented team than one-win Frederick.

While Berthoud was able to execute their offense very well and played as hard as they have all season, Windsor jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the opening two minutes proved a deficit too large to overcome. Despite having countless good looks at scoring opportunities through the first half, Berthoud made good on only four buckets from the floor as Windsor built a 10-point lead by halftime, 28-18.

“We didn’t make any shots, our shooting percentage was terrible, we had shots we could make and we just didn’t make them. We kept telling the kids, ‘we’re okay, just make some shots,’” Earl said after the game. Berthoud’s shooting struggles were exacerbated by a problem that has plagued the team nearly all season long – turnovers. The Lady Spartans committed nine turnovers in the first period and 26 total on the night. “We just can’t have so many turnovers, why we do I don’t know, but we have way too many turnovers too many nights,” Earl said.

Burdette explained after the game that the Lady Spartans did not let their first-half shooting struggles get them down and redoubled their efforts on the defensive end of the floor. “Everybody misses shots, even the pros, and so when we start to miss shots we keep our heads in it and we get together as a team and we work harder on defense because when we’re not making baskets we have to stop them from making baskets,” Burdette said.

Berthoud was able to get close multiple times in the second, third and into the early fourth periods but were never able to take the lead. A rebound and put-back from Cavey and a trey from Meis got to within two, 14-12, at the 6:16 mark in the second, but a lightning-quick 8-0 run from Windsor propelled the visitors’ lead back to a comfortable margin. The same story repeated itself in the second half as Berthoud got to within five at one point and four at another but could not overtake the Lady Wizards.

“In the third quarter and early in the fourth, that’s what got us back is we started making shots and our defense got a little better,” Earl explained. Windsor was to pull away late thanks to a stellar 10-of-12 mark from the foul line and Berthoud’s shooting once again went cold.

The 44-percent to 22-percent advantage in field-goal shooting that Windsor attained in the game, largely due to their ability to get the ball down low and take many high-percentage shots, told the story. “They’re usually driving it or passing it to a post and so when they drive it, to keep from scoring that way we have to have help side and hedge over screens and then when they pass in the post we have to cover down,” Burdette explained.

The Lady Spartans (13-9, 7-6 conf.) will play their final regular season game in Mead (12-2, 9-4 conf.) on Friday, Feb. 17. Brackets for the state playoffs will be released on Sunday and, considering the current RPI rankings, Berthoud is a good bet to host the opening round of the 48-team state tournament on Feb. 21.