Boys split pair, but find 3-point range
Baldwin High School lived by the 3-pointer Saturday and died by the free throw line Friday in splitting games with Anderson County and Paola.
Baldwin High hit 10 of 19 from the 3-point stripe against Anderson County while taking a 67-48 win. The night before, Paola used a staggering advantage at the free throw line for a 61-59 victory. The Panthers hit 17 of 30 free throws while the Bulldogs hit three of just five from the line.
That also proved to be a big difference for BHS in Saturday's win.
"Something that was even more shocking (than the 10 3-pointers) was we went 19 of 21 from the free throw line," said coach Bobby Taul, whose teams haven't been known for such free throw accuracy. "We only shot five Friday night, so we were well rested at the line. That's the first time ever we have had more 3-pointers than twos. We had 10 threes and 19 from the free throw line for 49 of our points."
The 3-point onslaught started early, too, as senior guard Tony Zuzzio hit a pair on BHS's first two trips down the floor. Junior guard Eric Black added another trey and Zuzzio made it three-for-three with 1:52 left in the first quarter. Junior post Hugh Murphy chipped in with a layup and a pair of free throws as BHS jumped to a 16-11 first-quarter lead.
It set the tone for the game. In all, six different BHS players hit 3s on the night. But Zuzzio led the way with four and Black had a pair. The outside gunning, coupled with strong inside play from Murphy, junior Eric Brown and senior Luke Tutschulte made for much smoother going than the Paola game.
It also gave opponents something more to consider when defending the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs who were playing without the services of 6-foot-4 postman Ben Cosman, the team's second leading scorer and top rebounder, who is still on Christmas break. The 10 3-pointers is a BHS record.
"I'd say so," Taul said of the lofty 3 numbers. "I'd say that's the most we've had in three games put together. We knew they would play a zone. I think we showed that we can shoot the outside shot. Tony hit the first 3 to set the tone and then hit the other one.
"It was really good for us," he said. "It gives the kids a lot of confidence. We've talked about how the offense we run leaves the corners open and we have to hit those."
The inside-outside combination led to a 29-20 halftime lead, which was even more amazing considering BHS's other senior standout, 6-foot-5 swingman Heath Knight, hadn't scored.
"Those other kids stepped up," said Taul. "Especially Tony and Eric (Black) and the inside guys of Hugh and Eric (Brown). That's the makings of a good team when you're leading at halftime and your leading scorer and best player hasn't scored."
But, that would change. Knight opened the second half with a dunk, then hit a 3-pointer. Tutschulte added a follow shot and Zuzzio hit his fourth and final 3 of the night. Two free throws by Knight and 3-pointers from Black, freshman Andrew Hannon and another by Knight put BHS firmly in control with a 17-point lead at the end of the third quarter, 49-32.
From there, BHS coasted, putting the game away by hitting 13 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"Playing down at Anderson County is always tough," he said. "Playing back-to-back games and without Ben, it was a big win. It's a tribute to the kids."
Zuzzio led the way with a career-high 13 points. Knight and Murphy both had a dozen points, including an eight-for-eight night for Murphy at the free throw line. Black added seven points and Brown six.
It was different Friday against Paola. Behind 15 first half points from Knight, BHS jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first half before settling for a 32-24 lead at halftime. BHS still led at the end of the third quarter, 45-41, but two 3-pointers helped Paola take a 51-49 advantage with 4:24 left in the game.
From that point on, Paola iced the game by hitting 10 of 15 free throws while BHS went to the line just twice. Leading that Paola parade was David Ward who had 37 points. Still, BHS stayed within a point or two behind 3-pointers by Hannon and Zuzzio and four points from Murphy.
But to lose the lead told Taul plenty.
"There were two main things. Paola stepped it up defensively and flat out rebounded us," he said. "We weren't blocking out and were giving up two or three shots every time. They got the stick-backs. Heath doesn't score in the second half, either. I don't know if that says something about Paola's defense or not.
"They beat us on the boards (26-21, 15 of those offensive rebounds)," said Taul. "They wanted it more than we did. Our inside people were tentative about putting the ball back up. Maybe this was a good lesson for us. We've got to come out and play hard every time."
The lesson paid off Saturday, where BHS won the board battle.
"Saturday, to me, on defense when a shot went up, we went to block somebody out," he said. "I think that lesson was learned."
The lessons are ongoing as more players enter the lineup. The addition of Hannon, who played his first varsity game Friday, swells a talented bench that Taul doesn't hesitate to use.
"We're learning," he said. "We've got a long way to go. I feel like Roy Williams. I've got so many kids that can come in and play a lot of different places. I'm having trouble finding minutes for them."
He'll need that depth as the schedule picks up. BHS played Osage City, the defending Class 3A champions, Tuesday night at home. Results weren't available by press time. On Friday it's a rematch against Gardner, which beat the Bulldogs in tournament play earlier this year. Game time for varsity for that one is 8 p.m.
"This is a big week for us. Tuesday it's Osage City, which is 7-0 and are defending state champs," he said. "Friday we play Gardner. I don't think they've been beaten. We've got two very big ballgames."
The following week is the 32nd Annual Baldwin Invitational Tournament which again has a talented field, including Jefferson County West, the team BHS upset in the first round of the Class 4A State Tournament last year. The tourney starts Jan. 16, but BHS has a first-round bye. The Bulldogs will play the winner of the Jeff West-Santa Fe Trail game Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. Tourney finals are set for Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.
In junior varsity play, BHS won both games. The Bulldogs beat Paola Friday 38-33 and Anderson County 63-36 Saturday. Against Paola, Brian Lauridsen had 12 points, Joe Gipp 10 and Hannon seven. Chapin Deel led the way against Anderson County with 13 points, followed by Yancey Richards with nine, and Hannon and Lauridsen both with eight.