Smyle and Svihovec carry Bowman County by Beulah
Beulah guard Erin Walcker was in an early groove.
Those are words any opposing team hates to hear, and for No. 2 Bowman County, those words were very much a reality as the 5-foot-10 senior scored 12 first-half points in a battle on Monday, Feb. 18. The No. 10 Miners, the only squad that earned an upset in the opening round of the Region 7 Tournament, had as much as a six-point lead before entering halftime tied 19-19 with the favored Bulldogs.
Tasked with defending Walcker was Bulldogs forward Abby Smyle, and while the junior didn't necessarily slow down the Beulah star, Smyle, along with junior guard teammate Jill Svihovec, were arguably the two most impactful players on the floor.
The duo scored 17 of Bowman County's first 19 points in the second half, aiding the higher-seeded team to a 49-40 quarterfinal victory from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.
"Jill got a little bit of a rhythm going on offense. She had a couple dribble-drives to the middle of the paint. She's always been able to hit some shots, so we were looking for her to come off ball screens," Bowman County head coach Jaden Schoch said. "Abby Smyle just played her heart out. We put her on Erin Walcker. She's a really good player, and she did an amazing job on her. ... Along with defending their best, Abby rebounded well for us. She scored under the basket. She was strong with the ball, so she played a really good game."
Svihovec opened the second half with a basket before Smyle connected on back-to-back field goals. Svihovec followed that stretch with a 3-pointer, giving the Bulldogs a 28-23 cushion.
After a long-distance make from Beulah sophomore forward Olivia Martens, Smyle split a pair of free throws, then stripped Walcker of the ball before going coast-to-coast for the layup.
"When our coaches tell us to be aggressive, I feel like that comes on me," Smyle said. "I always want to drive to the hoop and find the best opportunity for my team to kick it out. When we drive, then we get better kick-outs, and it's just better for our whole team."
With the Bulldogs up just three moments into the final frame, Svihovec knocked down a 3-pointer off the glass. While it remains unclear if she called glass, her basket from downtown kicked off a 7-0 run, pushing Bowman County's lead to 42-32, the largest lead either team had in the game.
Beulah kept fighting, though. The lead was trimmed to eight after a basket inside from forward Allyson Walcker, who got to the hoop following a spectacular save by senior forward Maddie Weigum, who kept the ball from going out of bounds by tapping it to the freshman in the paint. Then, after senior guard Chloe Senn missed the second of a pair at the charity stripe, Erin Walcker was fouled as she ripped down the offensive board for one of 10 rebounds. Her two free throws cut the deficit to 43-37.
The Miners got a defensive stop and were poised to continue their run. Erin Walcker airballed a perimeter shot from the wing, but Martens was alert, tracking down the miss, only to see her putback trickle off the rim. Bowman County made free throws the rest of the way to seal the victory.
"The effort," Beulah head coach Kasey Koepplin said most impressed him about his girls' performance. "The seniors played their guts out, the freshmen, the sophomores, everybody who contributed, and they know that they'd have to do that and have that type of game. ... The kids' effort, like I told them right after the game, should go unquestioned, cause there's a lot teams that would've been happy with just being in the game. They knew that's not the reason why we got here. They played their guts out to get to here to have an opportunity to continue playing, and they absolutely did that again."
Svihovec and Smyle each had 12 points to pace the Bulldogs, combining for 22 of their 24 points in the second half. Senior forward Ellie Stafford chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds.
With six points after halftime, Erin Walcker finished with a game-high 18 points in her final high school game.
"Mr. Schoch just said that we want to keep her from the 3-pointers, to try and keep her from not driving," Smyle said of her defensive assignment. "I wanted to play straight-up defense on her knowing that I'll always have my help-side (defense) there. I just wanted to play the best defense I can to shut down their best player."
No. 2 Bowman County 49, No. 10 Beulah 40
B 8 11 12 9
BC 8 11 16 14
B: Erin Walcker 18, Ally Walcker 8, Chloe Senn 7, Trinity Doe 3, Olivia Martens 3, Maddie Weigum 1.
BC: Abby Smyle 12, Jill Svihovec 12, Ellie Stafford 11, Abigail Bartholomay 5, Maury Burke 5, Ashlynn Dix 2, Jenna Buchholz 2.
3-pointers: B 5 (E. Walcker 2), BC 4 (Svihovec 2). Free throws: B 5-10, BC 11-22. Total fouls: B 20, BC 11. Rebounds: B 38 (E. Walcker 10, Senn 10), BC 37 (Stafford 8). Assists: B 5 (E. Walcker 2), BC 6 (Stafford 2). Steals: B 8 (Senn 2, Weigum 2), BC 8 (Svihovec 3). Blocks: B 3 (E. Walcker 2), BC 4 (Stafford 3). Turnovers: B 16, BC 18. Records: B 18-3, BC 7-16.