The Burnet High School girls basketball team defeated Smithson Valley 42-40 Nov. 14 for the Lady Dawgs’ first win this season.
Burnet (1-2) lost to Stephenville 29-25 Nov. 10 and to Lake Belton 51-48 Nov. 6 to begin the season.
“All three games were really close,” head coach Rick Gates said. “We lost to Lake Belton without our volleyball girls.”
Against Smithson Valley, Burnet built a 12-5 lead in the second quarter, but Smithson Valley took a 19-18 lead midway through the stanza. Senior forward Sierra Schaefer hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Lady Dawgs a 22-20 advantage.
In the third period, Burnet added to the lead by going up 26-20 and Schaefer dropped in another long bomb for a 33-22 lead.
Late in the game, junior guard Sydney Lough sealed the win with a steal while playing half-court defense.
Burnet had 35 rebounds, 12 assists and 11 steals. Smithson Valley had 27 rebounds, 11 assists and 19 steals.
Schaeffer led with 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Senior guard MaeSyn Gay had 2 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals.
“I really liked our defense,” Gates said. “I think we’re ahead on defense right now. They understand what we’re trying to do defensively. They’re working really hard on the defensive end. That’s super important. I like where we are right now, especially on the defensive side of the floor. In playing more games, we’ll start to figure some things out. I’m excited about the season.”
The Lady Dawgs were at full strength with the return of senior guard Denton Journey, senior center Zaria Solis, junior guard Cidney Robison and Gay. All four joined the basketball team now that their commitment to this year’s volleyball team ended.
The experience and talent of this year’s team makes Burnet the favorite to win the District 24-A basketball crown.
“I do feel that way if we can stay healthy,” Gates said. “Anything can happen on any given night.”
Burnet knows that better than anyone.
Headed into district play a year ago, the Lady Dawgs were 14-5 highlighted by an eight-game winning streak. After stunning district favorite Marble Falls 43-29 in the district opener in January 2023at Max Copeland Gym, Gay went up for a routine shot against Lampasas and came down with a season-ending injury that took her months to rehab.
Burnet lost that game 44-22 and then lost to Jarrell 39-37 the following week.
“Losing that game at Lampasas wasn’t unexpected,” the coach said. “Losing that close one at Jarrell, I felt like we played really well.”
The Lady Dawgs were adjusting to a season without Gay.
“I think it hurt our confidence a little bit,” Gates said months later. “She does so much for us. She’s a positive kid in addition to what she bring with her basketball skills. It took us some time to right the ship and make the necessary changes moving forward. We dropped a couple of games. I’d like to think we wouldn’t have otherwise.
“MaeSyn was good on the bench, cheering the team on and doing what she could on the sideline,” he added. “Anytime a kid like that who’s used to doing so much year after year comes to a screeching halt — it’s hard. Everybody had to step up in the gym and fill that void. That’s going to help us in the long run.”
The aftermath is that other Lady Dawgs developed their individual skill sets to contribute more. Enter Solis who was named the district’s Most Valuable Player.
Now that Gay has returned and Solis continues to perform at a high level, few opponents can match the Lady Dawgs.
“They complement each other really well,” the coach said. “They work together really well. They both bring different skill sets to our team. They understand what a big role each has on the team. I do feel like Zaria had to step up and do a lot more for the team.”
Burnet looks to have the most experienced team returning. Gates said many of the programs graduated plenty from their squads last year, including his.
But Gay is back for her fourth year on the varsity, while Solis is starting her third year.
Marble Falls, which is the defending district champion, lost four of its five starters and has four returners back led by senior center Lexie Edwards, who recently committed to Howard Payne University and is a four-year letterman.
“Jarrell came up with a couple of girls last year who were athletic and helped them. They’re growing over there,” Gates said. “Same thing with Lago Vista.”
The reason for Burnet’s success isn’t found on the court in front of fans. Rather, it’s because of the strong bonds and friendships formed away from The Doghouse.
“I think they learned that from when they first came up,” Gates said. “We’ve had some good players come through here. We’ve been fortunate through the years to have that. The older girls understood MaeSyn could help our team, and they needed to support her. The older players understood that about Zaria. They knew they were going to be important pieces to the team. I think that has come through the years. They understand they can’t do it by themselves.”
The Burnet varsity team only travels to Leander High at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17.
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