Baldwin rally falls just short
Almost. That's the only way to describe Baldwin High School's 65-64 loss to the Ottawa Cyclones last Tuesday. It came after the Bulldogs had battled back from a 22-point third-quarter deficit.
"Almost, that's the operative word," said Jeff Haas, BHS coach. "They showed a lot of resiliency in the come back. I'm proud of them for it."
And, it almost paid off with a last-second win. BHS whittled the lead down to two points with 1:52 left when senior post Hugh Murphy hit a free throw. Fifty seconds later, senior guard Eric Black made a steal and turned it into a layup that knotted the score at 64-64 with 1:01 left.
Ottawa hit a free throw with 53 seconds left for a 65-64 lead. BHS called a time out with 39 seconds remaining to set up the last shot. The Bulldogs ran the clock down to about eight seconds and sophomore guard Andrew Hannon drove towards the basket. The ball popped out as three Cyclone defenders went at Hannon. BHS junior guard Joe Gipp ended up with the ball with only seconds left and lofted a 3-pointer. It clanked off the rim as the buzzer sounded, leaving the Cyclones the victory and breathing easier.
It was almost a perfect Christmas present for BHS at the break.
"It would have been," said Haas.
But, the come back will just have to do. Midway through the third quarter, Ottawa was up 54-32 and it looked all but lost for BHS. But, the Bulldogs climbed back in it with a 28-6 run from that point to Black's layup that tied the game.
There was a little bit of everything in the rally steals and layups, free throws, 3-pointers and strong inside play. Name it and the Bulldogs did it. Hannon and senior post Eric Brown provided layups and the inside play. Gipp went on a roll, hitting three 3-pointers in the stretch, including back-to-back 3s that brought the score to 62-61 with 2:31 left in the game.
But, what keyed the onslaught was defense, and plenty of it.
"We did a real nice job extending the defense and it's something I haven't asked them to do before," said Haas. "But, I was confident they could do it. Ottawa helped with some missed free throws.
"It's better to go in a defense like that when you want to, not when you have to," he said. "Sometimes teams that do that do that to mask some things. That's what I don't want to do. I don't want to mask our rebounding problems with it."
Oh, there it is. The reason for the loss can be quickly summed in one word rebounding. Ottawa bounced the Bulldogs on the boards by 11.
"That's pretty bad double digits," Haas said of the rebounding deficit. "You can't beat people if you can't win the battle of the boards. It's frustrating because I really feel if we could master that, we could beat some people.
"The defensive rebounding bugaboo came back to haunt us again," he said. "I'm getting tired of that. I certainly can't block out for them."
But, there were good points from the game, too. BHS unveiled its press for the first time and it was key to the come back, illustrated by Black's steal and layup that tied the game. However, like the extended defense, the press can't be used as a crutch, he said.
"I think we can get some easy baskets with the press, but I don't want us to rely on that to mask the rebounding," Haas said.
The Bulldogs also used some different offensive sets for the first time. Haas has been able to introduce more offense as his first season has progressed.
"That part (more offensive sets) has come around well," he said. "We'll keep doing more things as the year goes along."
Hannon once again led the offense with 21 points. Gipp was close behind with 17, with most of those coming from 3-point land. Brown rounded out the double-digit scoring with 11.
The loss dropped BHS's record to 4-3 at the Christmas break. It could have been better, but Haas isn't unhappy with where the Bulldogs are at.
"We were staring 5-2 right in the eye," he said. "I think we've gotten a good picture of what we do well and what we need to work on. I've talked to some individuals about statistics that show what they need to do.
"It's a good check point for what we need to do to make us cohesive as a whole," Haas said. "I'm not at all surprised at where we're at."
BHS's first game of the New Year will be Jan. 4 when the Bulldogs play host to Paola. Games start at 5 p.m. with the junior varsity, followed by the freshmen at 6:30 (both in the high school gym) and the varsity at 8 p.m. in the junior high gym.