BHS girls put an end to Top Gun drought
WELLSVILLE It finally happened. The Baldwin High School girls finally walked away with the championship trophy of the Top Gun Tournament here Saturday night. It was 12 years in the making.
BHS downed Anderson County 62-51, using an all-important 21-10 run in the second quarter to establish a lead. Anderson County was up by one, 15-14, after the first quarter, but the BHS surge turned that into a 35-25 halftime lead. The teams slugged it out in the second half, with Baldwin adding just one more point for the final margin.
The title was important for Baldwin High, but the Bulldogs won it for themselves, not those other 11 teams that had tried without luck in the past.
"Yes, we did it," said a happy coach Eric Toot. "I'm very proud of that. We've never won it, but we really didn't talk about that.
"We didn't talk about the past. We just wanted to win it for this year's group because they deserved it," said Toot. "We've played a lot better since the Christmas break. I thought the girls were confident. We just wanted to be in the final game. We didn't care against who."
BHS had beaten Anderson County earlier in the year, but had lost to No. 1-ranked Ottawa after building an 18-point lead. It looked like BHS would have another shot at Ottawa in the Top Gun finals, but it didn't happen because Anderson County handed the Cyclones their first loss of the season in the semifinals. Baldwin blasted Kansas City Piper 58-33 in the semis to advance.
Anderson County has always played BHS tough, however, and the Garnett girls have one of top players in the state in Lexee McDonnell, who gunned down Ottawa almost single-handedly in the semifinal game with 36 points. But Baldwin had a new plan and used a box-and-one gimmick defense to try and slow McDonnell up.
Senior Colleen Kivett drew the assignment of being the "and-one" in the defensive scheme. Kivett shadowed McDonnell all over the court and the rest of the team chipped in when she came their way.
"As far as a team effort, we really played as a team on defense," he said. "Everyone did their job and were very aware and in tune about where she (McDonnell) was. We only had a day to get used to that defense and they picked up quickly. I thought it was an easy adjustment for us because it was our zone without the top girl."
It worked, as BHS held McDonnell to 23 points. Toot figured if the defense didn't work, they could go back to the normal sets.
"She had 23 points, but she had to earn those. She took 20 shots," he said. "We figured if it didn't work, we could get out of it. I thought we transitioned well from our press into it."
But BHS wasn't alone in the game-plan business. Anderson County's idea was to take away BHS's 3-point shooting, which had become a mainstay in the second half of the season.
"This was probably the first game a team has played us outside in. They took away our 3-pointers," said Toot. "But our post players stepped it up. Casey (Millstein) and Emily (Brown) dominated inside. They made great moves, got good shots and dished it out when it wasn't there.
"Colleen was very aggressive on the offensive end, too," he said.
That all-important second quarter illustrated that. Brown started it off with a follow shot, which was followed by back-to-back 15-footers by Kivett. Millstein then chipped in with and old-fashioned three-point-play, hitting an inside shot and the resulting free throw as a result of a foul. That trio then combined for the next dozen points as BHS went ahead for good at halftime, 35-25.
Anderson County never gave up, though, and kept cutting into the lead. Baldwin answered with the Millstein-Brown connection on the inside and the only two 3-pointers on the night, both by Kivett, in a four-minute surge that upped the lead to 13.
Anderson County could never get closer than nine points. The victory upped BHS's record to 11-2, while Anderson County dipped to 6-7.
While the tourney title was nice, Toot was happier about how his team performed, regardless of the setting.
"I thought we had a good shot going into the tournament to win it, although there were some real good teams to beat in Ottawa and Anderson County. We played extremely well Saturday night," he said. "It's probably the best I've seen us play in a year and a half. We saw options off our offensive sets that we hadn't before.
"They wanted to win and they showed it," said Toot.
Kivett led the scoring with 20 points. Millstein and Brown contributed 14 points. Millstein had 10 rebounds and Brown eight. All three were named to the all-tournament team.
In Thursday's win over Piper, Brown had 15 points and Kivett 14. Nine players scored as Toot substituted freely in the game that saw the Bulldogs race to a 37-6 halftime lead. A similar scenario occurred in the tourney opener as BHS pounded Eudora 58-33. Kivett was the lone player in double digits with 13 points.
BHS faced off against Frontier League foe Gardner Tuesday night, but results weren't available by press time. The Bulldogs travel to Prairie View Friday.
Toot is excited to return to league play.
"I'm just looking forward to getting back and playing," he said. "The way we're playing right now is fun. We just have to keep it going."