Roller-coaster season ends for BHS boys
There won't be a return trip to the Class 4A State Tournament for the Baldwin High School Bulldogs. Louisburg took care of that by downing BHS 55-51 in overtime Thursday in the second round of the Baldwin Sub-State tourney.
In the end, BHS coach Bobby Taul summed it up quickly.
"It just wasn't meant to be," said Taul.
That's pretty much how the season had went and it was more so in the overtime loss. Like so many games this year, it was a roller coaster adventure. This time that last plunge downward was it. There are no tomorrows after a sub-state loss.
"The season has been up and down all year," he said. "That's just not being consistent. We were up and down. If we were up, watch out. If we were down, we were in trouble.
"You can't afford to have one bad quarter at this time of the year," Taul said. "If you have one, you pack it up. I feel sorry for the seniors. They had high expectations for themselves and so did a lot of other people. Maybe the juniors will learn from that. They've been around for awhile and seen the good and the bad. Maybe they'll remember this next year."
In Thursday's loss, senior Luke Tutschulte headed the roller coaster up by scoring eight points in the first quarter. Fellow senior Tony Zuzzio's 3-pointer accounted for the other points as BHS led 11-9 at the end of the frame. Tutschulte also scored the Bulldog's final four points of the half with an 8- and 12-footer for a 23-21 halftime lead.
But Baldwin let the third quarter slip and Louisburg responded to take a 33-29 lead. There was one last up for the roller coaster in the fourth quarter. After junior Eric Brown tied it up at 35-35, senior Heath Knight put BHS up by three with an old-fashioned three-point play with 3:20 left. Junior Eric Black's layup 30 seconds later gave the Bulldogs a five-point margin, 40-35, with 2:49 left.
From there, the roller coaster went straight down ... this time for good. Louisburg outscored BHS 7-2 in the next 2:25 to tie it at 42-42 and send it into overtime.
"At this time of the year, you've got to play four quarters," said Taul. "We just didn't play very well in the third quarter. Then in the fourth quarter when we were up by five, we didn't take care of the ball."
BHS had the last shot in regulation, but it didn't go in. The Bulldogs also opened the overtime by winning the tip ball, but lost possession. It was a sign of things to come. Louisburg took the early lead by two and BHS tied it with an 18-footer by Knight. From there, it was all Wildcats as they outscored the Bulldogs 11-7 to take the win.
"The kids came out, played hard and they wanted it," he said. "Things just didn't go their way. When you look at the final line score, one thing really jumps out at me. We went five of seven from the free throw line and they were 11 of 21. That's what it came down to. If we don't shoot 15 to 20 free throws in a game, we get beat.
"The other thing was definitely the boards," said Taul. "They killed us on the boards. We had one guy shooting and four guys watching. I was talking to their coach after the game and he said we had schooled them inside when we beat them last week. That's what they wanted to do to us and they did. He returned the favor. That's where they did their damage was in the paint."
BHS had beaten Louisburg 61-54 on Feb. 23 prior to the tourney. The Wildcats entered the Baldwin sub-state as the No. 1 seeded team while BHS was seeded No. 4. Both teams easily won their first-round games to qualify for Thursday's semifinal contest. Louisburg got its revenge.
"It's hard to play a team on Friday and then play them on Thursday," he said. "We beat them on Friday and it's hard to come back and beat a good team again."
The loss ended the season for BHS with a 14-7 record. Knight led the scoring with 15 points, but Tutschulte was right behind with 14. It was the last high school game for them and fellow seniors Ben Cosman, John D'Orvilliers and Bo Donora.
"This group of seniors came in with me four years ago and they have accomplished a lot," said Taul of the group that has spearheaded the move to winning records, top league finishes and last year's third-place finish at state. "They've done a lot for our program. You have to take your hats off for them.
"It all goes back to your sub-state," he said. "I've been around it long enough to know there's luck involved. We were lucky last year with our sub-state draw. That's what happened with Hayden (which qualified for state with an 11-12 record) this year. Between our sub-state and the one at Basehor-Linwood, we had eight of the top teams in this area."
Taul doesn't like to compare his teams. Last year's state-qualifier had a different mix of players and that's what happens every year. He's also already looking forward to next year.
"There are differences in the teams," he said. "Last year's team was different than this year's and next year's will be different from this year. I'm already looking forward to next year. We're going to be an unknown team.
"Everyone knew who was going to get the ball this year Ben and Heath," said Taul. "Next year's team will be different with the strength of the inside kids and the outside kids. It's going to be more of a team. Hopefully, what happened this year at sub-state will make everyone hungry next year."
A balanced and hungry team is what paved the way for Ottawa to advance to the state tournament this year. The Cyclones whipped Louisburg 66-51 in Saturday's sub-state final and are the No. 1 seeded team at state in Salina.