Bulldogs come close against Spring Hill
There was a giant killer dressed as a Bulldog Friday night at the Mill Valley Class 4A Sub-state. But, Baldwin High School's valiant run against No. 1-ranked Spring Hill ended with an official's whistle and an intentional foul as the Broncos took advantage with 10 seconds left to take a 55-48 win.
"The final game is a little bittersweet in a lot of ways," said first-year coach Jeff Haas. "We played well enough to win and we wanted to continue to play in the post season.
"I am just so proud of how the kids played at the end of the year," said Haas. "That's something we talked about all year to finish with a flourish. They certainly did that. It's hard not to be proud. They really stepped it us and played when it was for all the marbles twice."
Spring Hill had all it could handle from the Bulldogs. With a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Andrew Hannon to begin the game and a layup a minute later by senior post Eric Brown, BHS jumped out 5-0 and set the tone for the game.
The Broncos responded and took the lead, but behind Brown's 18-point first half, BHS had a surprising 29-26 halftime lead. Brown scored the last 11 points of the half for the Bulldogs to give them that lead.
Spring Hill adjusted at halftime, however, and Brown would score just two more points. But, Hannon picked up the slack, scoring 15 of his 20 points in the second half.
"They did a good job of closing off Eric Brown's dribble to the basket in the second half," said Haas. "Andy Hannon did a good job picking it up."
Hannon converted a three-point play midway through the third quarter to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the night at 36-30. A pair of free throws by Brown a minute and a half later kept the margin. But it wouldn't last. Spring Hill kept chipping away and the lead was only three, 39-36, going into the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer by the Broncos at the 4:17 mark gave them their first lead of the second half at 43-42. They would never trail again. But BHS wouldn't give in, either, and stayed within a point or two until another 3-pointer with 1:05 left put Spring Hill up 50-46.
Hannon brought the Bulldogs within two with 16 seconds left, but six seconds later the whistle blew and junior Joe Gipp was called for an intentional foul. Much like BHS girls coach Eric Toot who was victimized by a similar call in Saturday's final against Spring Hill, Haas wouldn't criticize the official's call, but certainly didn't appreciate its timing.
Still, the Bulldogs threw a big scare into the No. 1-ranked Broncos. The game opened a lot of eyes, as did the strong Baldwin contingent of fans who made the trek to Shawnee, even through Saturday's winter storm.
"I think we surprised a lot of people in that regard, except for ourselves," Haas said of the showing. "We were really ready for that game. I was real pleased with the effort and generally pleased with the fan support coming out to Mill Valley in that weather.
"There's great support for both the boys and girls," he said. "There's lots of support for the programs."
The Bulldogs knew they'd have to put their best game of the season together and hope for an off night by the Broncos to pull the upset after being beaten twice during the season by Spring Hill. It almost happened. After gaining the lead, the game plan was to spread the floor. That almost worked, too.
"We knew we had to dictate the tempo of the game. We knew we had to do it with the ball in the half court and cut down on the turnovers," said Haas. "We did that for the most part. We really did cut down on the turnovers."
BHS only had 11 turnovers in the game, but there were some costly ones down the stretch. There were also some costly missed free throws. Still, the Bulldogs put up a battle, including a 24-21 edge in rebounding.
"That showed how enthused we were," he said. "Those 11 turnovers aren't bad for a game against a team like that."
The loss also overshadowed a bit the real turnaround story of the season for BHS. The Bulldogs smacked Kansas City Ward 73-54 in the first-round game of sub-state play in Baldwin. Earlier in the year, Ward had clobbered BHS by a similar score in the Eudora tournament.
"I was real enthused with how we finished in the post season, especially the Ward game," said Haas. "The 20-point win over Ward when we had been beaten by that many before really said something.
"Our focus this year was let's get better and end with a flourish," he said. "I think that bodes well for the future. I think we got some good contributions from some underclassmen in addition to some seniors really stepping it up."
The 6-foot-4 Brown had a career night against Ward, scoring a season-high 30 points. Gipp added 13 points on a 3-for-4 night from 3-point range.
Seniors along with Brown who played their last game for BHS were Eric Black, Hugh Murphy, Brett Myrick, Chapin Deel and Yancy Richards. Brown really came on at the end of the year and the Ward and Spring Hill performances were proof of that.
"To say he had a big impact on the last two weeks of the season is an understatement," said Haas. "That gave our team a big lift."
It was a transition year, too, with the first-year coach. The final record of 10-12 isn't want Haas wanted, but it's a start.
"That's not what we wanted at all," he said. "It's hard to project what's going to happen before a season starts, especially when you have a new coach. There are a lot of adjustments. Some of those adjustments took awhile to show on the floor. By the end of the year, it was starting to show.
"It was me adjusting to personnel and the league, them adjusting to a new coach with a new style," Haas said. "We had a lot of exciting moments along the way. I would have hoped for more wins, but I couldn't have hoped for better effort."
He's also already looking forward to next year, which won't be a transition year.
"We'll take it up a notch next year," he said. "It's going to take a lot of work in the off season, but we'll be ready to go."