BHS looks to extend tradition
After a trip to the Class 4A State playoffs and a third-place finish last year, Baldwin High School can't afford to be content. Just ask head coach Bobby Taul.
"We won league, sub-state and were third at state, but that doesn't mean we've established the tradition we want," said Taul. "It means we've started it. One of the main things I'm going to talk about all year long is we don't want to be a one-hit wonder. We've got to keep going, step by step."
And, it won't be easy.
"We have to work hard every day," said Taul. "People aren't going to step back from us. We've got a target on our backs. When you're up there, there is more pressure. That's what I want and I hope that the kids do, too."
There's been a steady progression in the Bulldog basketball program since Taul took over four years ago. It had become a Frontier League doormat, but three years ago Taul guided the Dawgs to a 10-11 record, improved that to 11-11 the next year and then came last year's 17-9 showing. That included the league title, the sub-state championship and a 2-1 showing at state, which included knocking off top-seeded Jefferson West in the opening round and Scott City in the consolation finals.
In truth, Taul says last year's accomplishments came earlier than expected.
"This was going to be the year," he said. "We were a year early in my time table last year. Hopefully after last year's taste of Salina, the kids are still hungry. Hopefully they'll want to be in the final game at Salina this year.
"When you go back and talk about tradition, that's where we want to be every year in Salina," said Taul. "That's what we have in cross country. They expect to go to state every year and that's what we want to have in basketball."
Each of the four years Taul has been head coach, the "foundation" for a tradition-filled program has been added to, he said. This year's seniors represent the first class to play all four years for him and has the opportunity to build the program even higher.
"This class has a chance to do something that no other class has done to take another step further," he said. "We can't be satisfied with what we did last year. It's going to take hard work. Tradition is not built in one year.
"We're a year ahead of where I thought we'd be, but what that gives us is experience," he said. "The majority of our games are on the road this year. I've got an experienced senior team. You've got to be able to win on the road and this bunch can."
Senior returning starters are 6-foot-5 Heath Knight and 6-4 Ben Cosman. Other seniors who saw action last year are Tony Zuzzio (5-9), John D'Orvilliers (5-8), Luke Tutschulte (6-2) and Bo Donora (6-0). Cosman was the team's leading scorer and rebounder last year and Knight was right behind in both categories. They were all-league, all-area and made various all-state teams.
"They reaped in about all the honors they could," Taul said of the tandem. "It's nice to have your two leading scorers and rebounders back. You've got the nucleus coming back and that's nice. The other seniors will fill the roles I ask them to play. We've got all the confidence in the world in them. They're seniors and they now what to do.
"Ben and Heath are definitely the kids you want the ball going to," he said. "In basketball it's easy to stop one kid and when you've got another one, it gets harder."
Taul is also counting heavily on four juniors Hugh Murphy (6-3), Eric Brown (6-3), Eric Black (6-1) and Brett Myrick (5-10). Murphy came on at the end of the season last year and was one of the top rebounders and scorers in both sub-state and state play.
"Hugh's coming back," he said. "He earned his stripes at Salina. If he takes off where he left off last year, he'll be a good one. Eric Brown with the way he grew over the summer will give us a boost. We're also counting on Eric Black and Brett."
That experience gives Taul an advantage he didn't have a year ago depth.
"I really feel like I've got 10 kids who can really play and we don't lose anything," he said. "I can go five in, five out. We can keep fresh bodies out there. We want to wear people down. We want to push the ball on offense and be more aggressive on defense. With 10 deep we can do that, even if we get in foul trouble.
"We may even be able to go 12 deep," he said. "We're going to find out a lot in the first game and the tournament."
BHS opens the season Friday at home against Osawatomie. Varsity game is at 8 p.m. in the Baldwin Junior High gym. The junior varsity plays at 5 p.m. and the freshmen at 8 p.m. in the high school gym. That's followed by Trailblazer Invitational Tournament which starts Monday at Gardner. The Bulldogs open tourney play against Bishop Ward at 8 p.m.
With the experience, talent and depth the Bulldogs have, Taul is looking forward to the season.
"We've got some veterans who have been in the war," said Taul. "I'm excited and looking forward to it. I've got one ultimate goal, and I don't know if we can do it, but I want to be playing in that final game in March in Salina."