BHS boys come up short for title
GARDNER No one hates losing more than Baldwin High School coach Bobby Taul. But, Friday's 62-43 loss to Gardner in the championship game of the 2000 Gardner Invitational Tournament may turn out to be a real positive in the young season.
BHS's Bulldogs entered the tournament unbeaten and ranked as high as No. 4 in some Class 4A polls. The third-place finish in last year's state tournament was responsible for much of that, but also hung a target on the backs of the Dawgs. That's over for now.
"I think getting beat Friday night was the best thing for us," said Taul. "Now we know we have to come out and practice and play hard.
"We had the attitude that all we needed to do was show up and we'd win and that's not the case," he said. "Hopefully we can learn from the mistakes we made Friday night and get better."
As for the rankings, they don't mean much right now, he said.
"The ranking is nice, but I'd rather be there at the end of the season," said Taul. "We've got a long, long season ahead of us. This isn't the end of the season by a long shot.
"I'm not pushing the panic button," he said. "We're going to be where we want to be in February and March."
And Friday night's loss doesn't overshadow what the Bulldogs did to make it to the title game. They didn't have their "A" game going in Monday's opener, but still managed a 54-48 win over Bishop Ward. Then, on Tuesday, they beat Spring Hill 55-46 after trailing 25-20 at halftime.
"Looking at the game Monday, we were kind of shaky offensively," said Taul. "They threw some things at us we weren't ready for. We turn around Tuesday and had better pressure put on us, but we handled it with ease. We don't have a problem handling the press, but then we can't run our offense.
"At halftime of the Spring Hill game when we were trailing, I asked the kids what we did wrong and what we needed to do. They rattled off everything that I was thinking of. These kids are smart. They know what they need to do. It's just a matter of getting them to do it," he said. "We came out in the second half and did the things we needed to do. When they make up their minds on what they need to do, they can do it."
What they needed to do on that night was get the ball inside to 6-foot-4 senior postman Ben Cosman and the others who man the big positions. Held in check with just one point in the first half, Cosman responded with 18 points in the second half to lead the way with 19. Two other postmen, 6-3 senior Luke Tutschulte and 6-3 junior Hugh Murphy, also figured in the comeback with rebounds, buckets and free throws. Of course 6-5 senior guard Heath Knight was also a factor with an array of layups and inside shots.
BHS went on a 14-4 roll in the third quarter to take the game over, with the post trio accounting for 10 of the points. When Cosman hit a layup at the 5:53 mark to put BHS up 28-26, the Bulldogs never trailed again. BHS countered Spring Hill's 3-pointers with a variety of inside buckets and free throws to salt the game.
It looked like it would be more of the same Friday against Gardner. BHS raced to a quick 12-6 lead which included a slam dunk by Cosman. However, he was called for a technical for hanging on the rim. About a minute later he was whistled for his third foul and had to sit the rest of the half. Gardner responded to tie it 14-14 at the quarter and then the Blazers raced to a 31-21 halftime lead.
That target on the Bulldogs' back brought out the best in Gardner.
"Friday night Gardner came out and played a great game," said Taul. "Number one, they had to get Ben or Heath out of the game and they did it."
But BHS wasn't done. With Cosman back in the lineup in the third quarter, the Bulldogs pulled within four points, but that was as close as it got. He picked up his fourth foul midway through the quarter and Gardner was off to the races again.
"In the third quarter we came back and got within four. We did what we had to do," he said. "Then we lost Ben again and that was it. When you take away Ben, it takes away our inside game. That's nothing against our other postmen, it's just the way it is.
"They also attacked our other guards. They didn't do that with Heath, but they got in the other guard's faces," said Taul. "Our guards have got to learn. We've got to learn how to handle the pressure."
Knight led the way with 22 points and was named to the all-tournament team. One of the biggest factors in the contest was 23 turnovers by BHS, with only six of those coming in the second half.
Taul is concerned with his team's offensive performance right now and the tendancy to rely on Knight and Cosman. But, there's plenty of time to fix it, especially after Tuesday's scheduled game against Topeka Hayden was postponed because of weather.
"Offensively, I'm not satisfied," Taul said. "I don't feel at ease with it. I can't quite put my finger on it. We've come down in years past with discipline, worked the ball around and taken the good shot. Now we're coming down and taking the first shot we get."
It's unknown when the Hayden game will be made up. Possibilities include Thursday or Dec. 22, or several open dates in January and February.
What is known, barring anymore inclement weather, is a road trip to Anderson County Friday night. Those Bulldogs have a 3-1 record, just like BHS, and will offer a tough contest. Then, BHS is scheduled for another rough road game Tuesday at Ottawa. Varsity, junior varsity and freshmen will play in both those venues.
"Roger (O'Neill, BHS athletic director) wanted to make it (the Hayden game) up Thursday, but I didn't want to do it," he said. "Three hard games in that many days is tough. Maybe it will be Dec. 22. We've also got a few open dates in January and February."