High School Basketball

Post Presence

Belle Miller and Sidney Veatch unsung heroes in Mounties surprise season

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Southmont’s girls’ basketball program knew the absence of sophomore Sidney Veatch was leaving a void in the Mountie’s 6-16 disappointing season a season ago.

They just had no clue how big of a difference the now junior double-double machine was capable of making.

And neither did she.

The Mounties are 9-7 on the season, riding a three-game winning streak, and Veatch is at the center of it all.

“I honestly kind of surprised myself,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting coming back from an injury. I didn’t really know what I was capable of. And then after the first couple of games I started getting the feel of everything again, and now here I am.”

Veatch is averaging 12.6 points per game and 11.6 rebounds. She has recorded 10 double-doubles on the season, but she’s not the only post player who has elevated her game for the Mounties. Sophomore Belle Miller is averaging 8.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a contest, and Southmont coach Dustin Oakley quickly realized how much of a difference the duo could make for his team this season.

“We are leading the conference in rebounding,” he said. “You have two six-foot girls in there. They make a lot of shots difficult for the team, and they share the basketball pretty well.”

Miller and Veatch’s dominance inside has opened the door for the rest of the offense as well.

Opposing defenses know that junior Addi Charles (8.4 points per game) is capable of getting dialed in from outside the arc, and that junior Natalie Manion (5.5 points per game) can create offense off the dribble, but it’s a trio of senior guards that have stuck with the program who are helping Southmont’s offense work inside-out.

“I think this year I look for the post a lot more than I have in the past, because I trust them a lot more,” Bailey Thompson said. “And the team chemistry is a lot better.”

Thompson is second on the team in assists with 23, while Emma Ward leads the way with 28 on the season.

“I think we are more consistent in the paint this year, and we get most of our points there,” Ward said. “It’s our chemistry, and our chemistry is fun.”

And when the post gets fed, it opens up the rest of the offense, which has led to 62 makes from 3-point range.

“The thing we have worked on is getting them the ball,” Oakley said. “If we can get some good post feeds, and they can score early then it’s just going to open it up for the rest of the team. I think it’s made it tough for other teams on what they want to take away.”

Hannah Thompson, who has buried seven 3-pointers off the bench, and dished out 10 assists, sees Miller and Veatch working together to create a spark offensively.

“They work together,” Thompson said. “When one of them has a bad game, the other picks them up.”

Miller leans on Veatch, and Veatch leans on Miller.

“I definitely lean on Sidney for her going to the basket every single time,” Miller said. “She destroys inside — literally.”

Veatch may have the more glamorous numbers, but Miller brings more experience to the table, and has helped Veatch, who is a standout volleyball player for the Mounties, get re-acclimated to the game of basketball.

“I think I lean on Belle,” Veatch said. “I mean she’s obviously played more basketball than me. She knows what she’s doing. I think I rely on her more to set screens, and we look out for each other.”

Southmont is on a roll, and destined for their first winning season since 2017 — and hopeful of adding a fourth girls’ IHSAA Sectional trophy to the Mountie collection this school year, but it the outlook hasn’t always been so bright.

After two straight losing seasons in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, players could have easily given up on the program, but Oakley will always remember seniors like the Thompson twins and Ward, and a sophomore in Miller for sticking out the hard times, and a junior in Veatch for rejoining the program after sitting out a year due to injury.

“We had a terrible year last year, and we had every single girl in our program at every single workout in the offseason stuff,” he said. “And that’s a big thing I notice in coming back. These girls were so committed even after a 6-16 year, and I thought that was huge and I think that’s why they came back. They want to be successful.”

Oakley, who has always been a supporter of athletic teams outside of his own during his four years at Southmont, can also recall the summer workouts where a group of Mountie coaches mapped out a successful school year — and then watching the fall teams follow through with sectional championships in golf, soccer, and volleyball.

“I go to all there stuff, and watch all the fall stuff. And golf, soccer, and volleyball. It’s everything we talked about as coaches,” he said. “It’s you’re here right now because the goal is first to get a sectional championship and then move on and see what you can do. It’s more from the coaches that share those athletes, and have the same message. We get our athletes during our season, and we respect the other coaches, and I think the girls are putting in the time. We don’t have coaches fighting each other for athletes.”

And now it’s time for Southmont’s girls’ basketball program to lay the next brick in the pavement of Mountie success.

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