Ottawa steal BHS Christmas
For Baldwin High School's girls basketball team, the Grinch stole Christmas this year.
Midway through the third quarter of last Tuesday's game against Ottawa, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4A, the Bulldogs had an 18-point lead. It looked like Christmas would come a little early.
But then the Grinch, dressed up like so many Ottawa Cyclones, snatched everything good including the candy canes right out of the hands of those good girls dressed in purple. First Ottawa tied the game with a desperate, last second 3-pointer to knot the score at 59-59. Then the Cyclones outscored BHS 9-2 in overtime for a 68-61 win.
You're despicable, Mr. Grinch.
But despite the let down, BHS coach Eric Toot isn't hanging his head. The Bulldogs have also been a top-five ranked team this year and their only losses have come to the top two ranked teams in Class 4A.
"I'm not happy with the loss at all and I don't want the girls to be happy with it because they saw they could play with them, but we showed how good we can be if we play a whole game," said Toot. "I knew we were playing well (with the 18-point lead), but I knew we had to keep playing.
"It showed how good we can be, but you have to play 32 minutes," he said. "We played a great two-and-a-half quarters, but that's not enough with the teams we play."
Yes, BHS plays as a tough a schedule as possible. That's because of the strength of the Frontier League and then the Cyclones to boot. The Bulldogs have also claimed a victory over a top-ranked team, Anderson County, so there's no reason to panic.
"I'm not disappointed at all," said Toot of where the Bulldogs are at during the Christmas break. "We have lost to the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state. They weren't slouches."
Toot wasn't bothered by who his team lost to Tuesday, it was how. The Bulldogs had amassed the 18-point lead in a wonderful fashion strong inside play, tough defense and a good dose of outside shooting. Everyone was involved, from the inside duo of Emily Brown and Casey Millstein, to the outside duo of Jodie Bacon and Kayla Pringle, and the combination pair of Colleen Kivett and Anna Skaggs.
But, everyone was also involved with the wheels falling off. The numbers, both in free throw shooting and turnovers, prove it. BHS hit only nine of 19 free throws in the fourth quarter and in the overtime. The Bulldogs also had a season-high 20 turnovers, 14 of which came in the second half and overtime. Ouch.
On the other hand, Ottawa hit 14 of 15 free throws in the game, including 10 of 10 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Double ouch.
"Free throw shooting kept them in the game," he said. "We did a good job of getting to the line. But when you go to the line and don't make them, it's doubly bad. The clock stops and you lose your opportunity to score. It's almost like having a turnover."
And speaking of turnovers, they came mostly from a full-court press applied by the Cyclones.
"It's a little bit too high," Toot said of the 20 turnovers. "But that's the first time we've faced a press. We handled it in the first half, but got passive in the second half."
That passive play was the overall reason for the demise, he said.
"In the second half I thought we became a little bit too passive on offense and lost our momentum," he said. "Defensively, we just didn't do a good job rebounding or putting pressure on their shots. They got some shots they didn't get in the first half.
"It wasn't one spurt. They just chipped away at us," Toot said.
Where Ottawa began to take control was with 2:11 left in the game. The Cyclones hit an inside shot that gave them their first lead at 56-55. But BHS answered that, even after seeing its 18-point lead evaporate.
"They even took the lead once in the first quarter and we handled that and came back," he said.
First, Skaggs hit a 5-footer for a 57-56 lead. Then Kivett and Skaggs hit free throws for a 59-56 advantage with just 13 seconds left. Ottawa called time-out, set up a play and canned a 3-pointer to tie it and send the game into overtime. Toot didn't hang the loss on the 3-pointer.
"They should have never been in the situation for the 3-pointer," he said. "It wasn't that shot that beat us, it was the whole game accumulating."
Ottawa then put the 9-2 run together in the extra period to claim the victory to remain unbeaten. BHS fell to 4-2.
Brown led the team with 16 points, but Skaggs was right behind her with a season-high 15. Also in double figures was Kivett with 11 points.
Next up for BHS is Paola, a team that played Ottawa close earlier in the season. The game is Jan. 4 at home. The junior varsity plays at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity at 6:30 p.m.
"We come back with Paola," said Toot. "We've got some time to improve and get better. It's a league game and we're 2-0 in league."