BHS finishes fourth in 33rd BIT
It was a tale of two teams as the Baldwin High School Bulldogs finished fourth in the 33rd Annual Baldwin Invitational Tournament last week.
BHS opened the tourney like gangbusters, blasting No. 4 seed Jefferson County West 74-56 on Tuesday. It was the Bulldog's first win of the season over a team with a winning record and was the team's best all-around effort of the season.
That put the Bulldogs up against Augusta in the semifinals Friday. Augusta, the No. 3-ranked team in Class 4A, had destroyed Anderson County 102-58 in the BIT opener. BHS used its strongest shooting performance of the season and a slow-down emphasis to stay close. The Bulldogs actually led 40-38 going into the fourth quarter before falling 59-51.
But, then there was Saturday. BHS was playing short-handed, but just didn't answer the call. Santa Fe Trail won the consolation game 52-47.
"I was really disappointed with how we played Saturday, but the other two games I thought we played well," said coach Jeff Haas. "We didn't execute anything until the end of that game when it was too late. Until we are desperate, we won't do anything.
"When you see that pattern so many times, it loses its luster," said Haas. "We need to draw a line in the sand that we need to come out and play like we can early. We came out and didn't do anything right and that baffles me."
That's not every game, but the pattern is most prevalent in games that count, against good opponents. BHS had a chance to finish third, but didn't answer the call. Haas is more worried about the mental aspect of that than the physical.
"It just seems, generally speaking, we have a fear of the expectation of winning," he said. "It's a psychological battle we're fighting.
"Whenever we have a chance to get something, we don't get it," said Haas. "When it's the other side of the coin, when we're playing against a negative like we were Tuesday, we can battle."
Haas, a psychology teacher, admits he can't put his finger on how to fix that yet. It's not a matter of doing something different in practice, such as a different drill or approach. He knows the team is right on the edge of being good, it's just a matter of getting it pushed over that line mentally.
"This team is too good to be 5-8," said Haas. "We've been within points of beating some of the best teams in the state. We've been within striking distance in every one of those games with less than two minutes left.
"But, we just can't seem to get over that hump," he said. "We can't keep having Groundhog Day over and over. We need to clear that psychological hurdle more than anything."
In the Tuesday win, BHS led throughout, but used a strong second half to put the game away. The Bulldogs were up 28-23 at halftime and used an 18-10 third-quarter surge and finished with a 28-23 edge in the fourth quarter for the 74-56 win. Sophomore guard Andrew Hannon paced the attack with 24 points. Junior guard Joe Gipp was close behind with 19 points and senior post Hugh Murphy had 13.
BHS also led for the most part in the semifinal bout against ranked Augusta. The Bulldogs were up 16-14 after the first quarter and it was tied 28-28 at halftime. BHS regained the lead in the third frame with a 12-10 edge. But, Augusta took command with a 21-11 run in the fourth frame with success in its full-court press to claim the contest.
Senior postman Eric Brown turned in one of his best performances of the season and led the team with 15 points. Gipp added 13 points and Hannon had 10.
Then the wheels sort of fell off in the third-place game against Santa Fe Trail. BHS took an early 15-11 first quarter lead and was up 22-17 at halftime. But, Trail turned it around with a 25-9 surge in the third quarter to take control. BHS bounced back with a 16-10 edge in the fourth frame, but it wasn't enough. Gipp had 21 points and Hannon 13. Post players only had six points between them.
"Everything we did was in the open court with steals and other shots," said Haas. "I think maybe it was asking a lot of our team Saturday to beat a team with a winning record with us being short handed. Basically we were without three of nine players that are in our rotation."
Senior guard Eric Black's recent back problem flared up Saturday, senior guard Brett Myrick was competing in the state debate tournament and junior post Brian Lauridsen was unavailable. Sophomore swingman Micah Mason figured more in the mix in Saturday's game as a result and Haas was pleased with his play.
"Micah played well," he said.
The tournament record moved BHS's record to 5-8 for the season. The Bulldogs will play host to arch-rival Wellsville Friday. Games start at 5 p.m., with the varsity contest scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the junior high gym.
"Wellsville is going to be a big challenge," said Haas. "They are going to be a very competitive team. Their size is something we'd certainly like to take advantage of. We'll be doing some things in practice this week to try and do that."