Bulldogs rebound for revenge against G-E
If you believe in numbers, Baldwin High School was 32 points better Friday night when the Bulldogs extracted a good deal of revenge against the Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazers.
Earlier in the season, Gardner beat BHS by 22 points in the finals of the Trailblazer's tournament. Friday the Bulldogs topped Gardner 67-57. That translates to the 32-point turnaround. Is BHS that much better?
"I would say so," said coach Bobby Taul. "I think we did some things differently. After Gardner beat us the first time, we learned. We came back this time and had a different philosophy of what we wanted to do.
"First, our guards handled the pressure better. I think that was one of the main differences. There were a couple of times in the game we caved, but overall we did a much better job," he said. "Second was not getting beat down the court. In the first game they beat us on layups several times and that didn't happen this time. We made them come down and run an offense. Third, we decided to put some pressure on their defense and we pushed the ball down the court."
As important as those three factors were, there was a fourth that may have been the deal sealer rebounding. Heading into the first meeting with Gardner, BHS's height advantage figured to give the Bulldogs the edge. It didn't. Friday was different, though, as BHS out rebounded Gardner 41-23.
Senior Heath Knight (6-foot-5) led the way with 14 rebounds. Fellow seniors Luke Tutschulte (6-3) and Ben Cosman (6-4) had nine and five boards, respectively. And, junior guard Eric Black (6-0) was right in the mix with six rebounds. Gardner doesn't have a player over 6-2.
"We dominated and pounded the boards," said Taul. "Early, especially in the first quarter, we just controlled the boards. There were several times when Heath and Ben took turns missing shots, getting the rebound, putting it back up and rebounding again. Our domination inside was incredible.
"Luke had a tremendous game. He had 14 points, nine rebounds and five of those were offensive. That was a career game for him," he said. "He made a big difference."
Cosman, playing his first game since missing three while on a family vacation, scored six straight points four on stick-backs, two on a layup to close out the first quarter and give BHS a 25-14 lead. Tutschulte's follow shot and layups by Knight and Cosman to open the second quarter expanded the lead to 17. It grew to 18 on another Tutschulte two-pointer for a 33-15 lead with 3:33 left in the half. Gardner didn't give up, however, and cut it to 38-27 at the buzzer.
A cold spell in the third quarter, Knight picking up his fourth foul and Gardner hitting several 3-pointers helped cut that margin to just six points. That's also where the inside game came back. Three strong moves by Tutschulte, Black and Cosman rebuilt the lead to 12. At the end of the frame, BHS still had that margin at 48-36.
BHS upped it to as many as 18 points, but Gardner wouldn't go away. The Trailblazers stayed in it with a barrage of 3-pointers, but could never crack the double-digit lead. That was a vast improvement over two of the last three games BHS played Paola and Osage City, both losses where the Bulldogs gave away first-half leads.
"We talked about it at halftime, about going up against Paola and Osage and blowing it," said Taul. "Early in the season we were playing good in the third quarter, but we haven't been lately."
Although BHS experienced that third-quarter lull again, the Bulldogs bounced back this time. Cosman led the way with 19 points in his return, followed by Knight with 15 and Tutschulte with 14. Taul pointed to Cosman's biggest contribution intensity as another major factor in the turnaround.
"I think Ben being back Friday helped our intensity him being a leader and getting them pumped up," he said. "It's just his presence on the floor being there."
BHS could have used that last Tuesday when playing defending Class 3A state champion Osage City, which hadn't lost in 19 games. BHS raced to a 13-0 lead and was up 23-14 at halftime. The Bulldogs extended that to 11 points to open the third quarter, but then the wheels started to fall off.
Osage City, using a bevy of 3-pointers, went on to outscore BHS 22-6 in the third frame to take a 36-29 lead and command of the game. BHS had one last run, using a dunk by Knight and layups by junior Eric Brown and freshman Andrew Hannon to cut the margin to five at 45-40 with 2:28 left. That's as close as it got.
"I think their coach said it best. He challenged them at half time and said 'you aren't playing like state champs.' They've been through the wars and they responded," said Taul. "If we would have played Tuesday with the same intensity we played with Friday, we would have beaten them."
Knight and Brown both had 10 points against Osage. Black added eight.
Next up for the 6-3 Bulldogs is the Baldwin Invitational Tournament. They'll play in the semifinal game Friday night at 8 p.m. They received a first-round bye as the top seeded team.