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Warriors Athlete of Week: Offense blossoming for Warriors’ Smith

Meghan Smith had one of her best offensive weeks of her basketball career leading to her being named Brainerd Warrior Athlete of the Week.

girl shooting basketball
Brainerd Warrior Meghan Smith practices shooting Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, at Brainerd High School.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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Meghan Smith is a product of defensive effort turning into offensive glory.

The senior for the Brainerd Warriors girls basketball team plays with a defensive-first mentality. When placed at the top of Brainerd’s 1-3-1 zone defense, Smith attempts to cause as much chaos for opposing offenses as she can. The result is often fastbreak points and offensive confidence.

“Usually, I just try to cause havoc,” Smith said. “I just want to get a lot of steals so I try my best to read passes and hopefully get a few jumps on them. Otherwise, I just try to get tips on the ball so that teammates can get steals, and hopefully, one of us can get pushed out for a breakaway layup.

“My coaches would probably say I’m probably not the most confident person when it comes to offense. I’ve never really have been. I’m more defensive-focused. I usually just try to focus on good defense and then when my confidence is up with my defense then my offense follows. I just try to focus on defense and then my offense goes with it.”

Both Smith’s defense and offense clicked last week and it started with a 21-point performance in Brainerd’s 48-30 Central Lakes Conference victory over Willmar Jan. 25.

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"This year, I’m just focused on having fun and it’s really been working for me. I’m trying to have a good senior year with all my friends that I’ve been playing with since elementary school."
Meghan Smith

She was 9-of-14 shooting (64%), including 3-of-6 from 3-point. She added a rebound, an assist, a steal and two deflections.

“She knows what a good shot for her is,” Brainerd head coach Troy Nelson said. “A good 3-pointer for her is a good inside-out 3. Those are the only ones she shoots. We’ve been able to get her quite a few of those at times this year.”

In Brainerd’s 63-56 non-conference victory over Cambridge-Isanti Jan. 28, Smith led all scorers with 24 points. She was 7-of-12 shooting from the field (58%) and 8-of-8 from the line. She added four rebounds, an assist, two steals and a deflection.

“This last week she just brought a different level of intensity,” Nelson said. “You could just see it. On defense, she’s always working to get deflections and steals and we played a lot of our 1-3-1 (zone) where she kind of thrives. When we cause some havoc and turnovers she can get out and run and get some points in transition. She did a really good job of that.

“But also last week on the offensive end, she brought an aggression we hadn't seen from here. She was attacking off the dribble, which has never been one of her strengths, but she got to the rim a lot last week. She was hitting her inside-out 3s and, I’ve said this before, she’s one of our best cutters and curlers and she did a great job with that all week also.”

For the season, Smith is averaging 12.3 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals, 2.0 deflections and 2.0 assists per game.

Last season, Smith averaged 12.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.4 deflections a game.

“I just think she anticipates when they’re going to make that pass,” Nelson said. “She can jump higher than a lot of our opponents expect which allows her to get some of those tips and deflections and get us going.

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“As the game goes along after she gets a couple of those, now the other team is throwing lob passes, which allows some of our other kids to get up and get steals and get us going.”

In a 48-47 conference win over Sartell Monday, Jan. 31, Smith tallied nine points on 33.3% shooting. She added a rebound and three steals to push Brainerd’s record to 13-3 and atop the conference standings.

“I, honestly, would say this is probably the most cohesive team that we’ve had in a while,” Smith said. “We’ve been playing together since probably third grade. We’re all really used to each other and we know how to work together. We can pick each other up when we’re down and we know what each of us needs to play better.”

Nelson said the entire team, which is filled with seniors, is playing more relaxed this season. He said they know what to expect. They know what is expected of them and they are playing together and having success doing so. Another thing about this team and Smith is their hatred for losing.

“We just have a grit about us this year,” Nelson said. “We’re maybe not the most talented team every time we step onto the court, but we battle and we hate to lose and we just go out and compete from the opening tip to the end of the game. I think the girls have seen how much success we have when we just refuse to lose.”

The four-year varsity player and the three-year starter who also shined on the volleyball court signed to play softball next year at Gustavus Adolphus College

“I’m honestly just having the most fun I’ve had all through high school with basketball,” Smith said. “It’s always been that one sport that doesn’t really click for me. This year, I’m just focused on having fun and it’s really been working for me. I’m trying to have a good senior year with all my friends that I’ve been playing with since elementary school. I would say I’m really relaxed this year.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

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Meghan Smith

Smith_Meghan.jpg
Meghan Smith

Sport: Girls basketball

Position: Forward

Year: Senior

Age: 18

Height: 5-foot-8

Career highlight: Beating Fergus Falls in basketball 63-62 Dec. 21

Other sports: Volleyball, softball

Grade-point average: 3.814

Favorite class: Human biology

Favorite food: Mac and cheese

Favorite movie: “Greater”

Favorite TV show: “Bachelor in Paradise”

Favorite website or app: Tiktok

Favorite restaurant: Boulder Tap House

Future plans: Attend and play softball at Gustavus Adolphus College

Favorite athlete: Sis Bates, softball player for Washington Huskies

Parents: Alisha and Josh Smith

Other notable performances

Gabe Wagner, wrestling, finished 3-0 with three pins at the Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus duals. He finished last week 5-0.

Dalton Barrett, wrestling, finished 3-0 with three pins at the Pequot Lakes/Pine River-Backus duals. He finished last week 5-0.

Lilly Schaeffer, girls Nordic skiing, won the Little Falls pursuit in 36:42.

Cam Engholm, boys basketball, finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four assists against Bemidji, 18 points against Alexandria and 10 points against Elk River.

Gavin Hoelzel, boys Alpine skiing, was the individual winner at the Wild Mountain Dual with a time of 1:00.55.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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