BHS girls change with experience
It's Eric Toot's second year at the helm of the tradition-rich Baldwin High School girls basketball team. It's as good a time to make changes as any.
"I think we're making good progress," said Toot, a Baldwin High graduate. "We're doing some different things this year. I hope within a week we'll be doing it by instinct and not thinking about it."
The Bulldogs finished with a 17-4 record last year, but that last loss was an upset in the first round of sub-state play. It was the final message that something needed to change. BHS started the season off playing well on offense, but towards the end of the season, that stopped.
With that in mind, Toot has installed a couple of new offensive sets. The emphasis on defense has put a premium on being aggressive in the man-to-man. That doesn't include a full-court press, however.
"No, I think we're good enough defensively that we won't be pressing much. We don't like to give up easy layups," he said. "I think we were solid defensively last year and I think we'll be better this year. We've only got two true post players (senior Casey Millstein and sophomore Emily Brown), but a lot of good talent and we're going to try to put some pressure on defensively.
"We struggled offensively last year, especially at the end of the season, and those are the things we're trying to correct," said Toot.
Aggressiveness won't be limited to defense, either. But the offensive end of it will still have control.
"Our philosophy right now is to get the ball up the court," he said. "We want to push the ball, but we don't want to get into the game of shoot first and ask questions later.
"One of the things we struggled with wasn't so much taking bad shots, but passing up good shots," said Toot. "Not taking a good shot is as bad as taking a bad shot. I thought last year we did it at the first of the year, but not at the last."
While the second-year coach is emphasizing those items, he returns a wealth of players who learned it first hand a year ago and are more open to learning from those mistakes. Only one starter from last year's team graduated.
Starters returning are seniors Colleen Kivett, Jodie Bacon and Millstein, junior Anna Skaggs and sophomore Brown. Yes, that's five, but there was a rotation used between the six starters, which included Suzie Weege, who graduated.
To have that kind of experience back is wonderful, Toot said, but unfortunately, that's the case throughout the always-tough Frontier League.
"Everyone else has everyone back, too," he said. "I'm excited to have our girls back with experience. We had a good year last year and I'm looking forward to it this year. We go into every game with a chance to win."
But, it won't be easy. There are at least five teams in the league with the chance to win it, plus Ottawa on the schedule and possibly in the sub-state again.
"The league is definitely very good," said Toot. "In my mind Paola, Anderson County, Gardner, Spring Hill and us will be very good. Eudora has the best player in the league. We play Ottawa, too, which isn't in our league. Ottawa and Spring Hill will be ranked in Class 4A.
"The thing about our league is were to the point that everyone has everyone back," he said. "Everyone has their best players back. I think there were only three seniors on the all-league team last year. Even though it's a new year, it's going to be a lot the same."
Another strength the Bulldogs will have this year is another standard for BHS girls depth. There are 16 upperclassmen out and 14 of them will vie for the 12 varsity spots. Besides the returning starters named, there are: senior Nicki Frerking; juniors Katie Martin, Kayla Pringle and Erica Johnson; and sophomores Kari Garrison, Kalie Harris, Jamie Lawrenz, Anna Gillispie and Leslie Gillispie.
"Yes, we have plenty of depth, except at post," said Toot.
The Bulldogs will open the season Friday at Osawatomie. The junior varsity plays at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity at around 6:30 p.m. and the freshmen at 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday of next week, BHS will be in the Gardner tournament. The Bulldogs open against Kansas City Turner at 8:45 p.m. Monday. If they win, they play again Tuesday at 8:45 p.m. If they lose, it will be a 5:30 p.m. game Tuesday.
Toot is ready for it to start.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "We have a great group of kids."