Girls win three in final tune-up
With three straight wins last week, Baldwin High School's girls head into this week's sub-state at home on a roll. BHS easily dispatched Osawatomie 56-20 on Tuesday, downed Eudora 49-44 on Thursday in a make-up game and beat Louisburg 43-31 on Friday.
When it was all over, the Bulldogs had wrapped up the No. 3 seed in the Baldwin-based sub-state this week and a second-place finish in the Frontier League.
What made it more impressive is BHS had won two big games the week before which could have left the Bulldogs drained. It didn't.
"Coming off the week before with two big emotional wins, I thought we could have trouble," said coach Eric Toot. "But we didn't. We took care of business. I was happy with the week."
It comes at just the right time, too. Peaking at sub-state and state playoff time is what every coach hopes for.
"I really believe we're playing as well as we have all year," he said. "To get out of our sub-state, we need to play as well as we can. We've had a great season, but everyone is 0-0 now. We're starting our second season."
That "great" season includes a 17-3 overall record and a 7-2 mark in league play. The only league losses have been to Class 5A Paola and Anderson County, which spent much of the season in the Class 4A polls.
"I thought coming into this year we could finish anywhere between one and five in the league," said Toot. "To finish second this year is a big accomplishment. We're the only team in the league to beat Paola. We beat Spring Hill twice and Paola beat them twice."
BHS also accomplished everything this season without any returning starters from last year's team. What the Bulldogs have used is depth and a group of girls that like to play and, most importantly, play together.
"I thought all year we've had great team chemistry," he said. "We have a freshman and four seniors and a mixture of everything in between. Everyone likes to play together. They don't care who scores the points or gets the credit. Their overall attitude has just been outstanding."
That's helped the girls to the sterling records, including a 4-1 mark against the 5A schools in the Frontier League. It's a very competitive league and that helps keep everyone sharp.
"I don't know why it's so tough," Toot said of the league. "I think girls basketball has gotten better year after year. I think we're just in an area where there are lot of good teams. Our girls are playing summertime ball against a lot of good girls."
As for the Bulldog squad, there are a couple of reasons for the recent run. Defense has continued to be the BHS mainstay, but it's the offense that's really come around. The Bulldogs have been hitting a better percentage of shots, but more importantly they've cut down on the turnovers. The goal each game is to keep turnovers under 15. Against Eudora, BHS had 11 turnovers and against Louisburg there were only eight.
"Probably the biggest thing is we're playing with a lot of poise on the offensive end," said Toot. "We've cut down on our turnovers."
And, again, it comes at a good time heading into the playoffs. The Baldwin sub-state is one of the tougher ones around.
"We have a legitimate shot at this thing, but we're going to have to play real well," he said. "It's one and done time. If you win, you move on, lose and you go home. We've got to beat three real good teams to advance to state. If we play like we're capable of, we'll be all right."
Against Osawatomie, Colleen Kivett and Casey Millstein, a pair of juniors, had 12 points apiece to lead the way. Against Eudora, Anna Skaggs, a sophomore, had 12 points and freshman Emily Brown had 10. In the Louisburg win, Brown had 15 points and Kivett 12. That displays the kind of balanced scoring the Bulldogs have been using all season.