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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Hustle - not big numbers - makes Boca Ciega's Missy Schmidt a valuable player.
By Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer
Published February 16, 2008
GULFPORT - Ponytails fly everywhere in games, and so does Missy Schmidt - toward the rim, into the passing lanes and into the path of opposing players.
The junior has been one of Boca Ciega's most effective players. She has converted her boundless energy into steals, blocked shots, fastbreak opportunities and floor burns.
Schmidt is averaging a modest five points and five rebounds in 29 games. But her impact has never been measured by statistics alone.
"Missy kind of gets lost in the shuffle of some our other players," Pirates coach Will White said. "But she is one of our most important and complete players."
Schmidt endeared herself to White two seasons ago by pouncing on loose balls, muscling for rebounds and jump-starting fastbreaks.
"I remember Missy wore volleyball knee pads to her first practice as a freshman," White said. "I thought that was strange. But I soon realized that was part of her game."
Schmidt is the consummate hustle player. She does not need the ball but always seems to find it. Not known as a shooter, she can hit a 3-pointer when needed. Still, she was not able to win over fans who thought she could not do enough around the basket to compensate for the loss of Hannah Stenfors, out for the season with a torn ACL.
"Some criticized me on the blogs, and it got to me," Schmidt said. "I even wrote back and defended myself. It made me more determined to play better and prove everyone wrong."
Tonight, Schmidt will be just as valuable as her more heralded teammates. She will guard Clearwater's J'Beria Davis, who had a breakthrough game with 35 points in Tuesday's overtime win against Plant.
"Missy's play will determine if we move on to states," White said.
Class 5A region final: Boca Ciega (26-3) at Clearwater (24-5)
When: 7 tonight
At stake: The winner advances to Wednesday's state semifinals in Lakeland.
Outlook: Clearwater has knocked Boca Ciega out of the playoffs five of the past six seasons. The most thrilling matchup came in the region semifinals last season when the Tornadoes' Keona Dixon heaved a 70-footer at the end of regulation. The Pirates dominated the regular season series, sweeping both games, including the PCAC championship two weeks ago.