First BHS girls state title was a thrill 20 years ago
Whether you called them a team of destiny, a Cinderella team or what, the Baldwin High School girls basketball squad of 1982 was known by everyone by two names team and champions.
On March 13, 1982, Baldwin High pulled out a thrilling 38-34 win over the Nemaha Valley in the championship game of the Class 4A State Basketball Tournament in Salina. It was the first-ever state title for a girls team at BHS and helped to solidify a growing basketball tradition that continues today.
"That was a pretty amazing group of kids," said Ted Zuzzio, now a coach at Baldwin Junior High, who was head coach of the title team. "They were a totally unselfish group. Nobody thought about points
"It was a lot of fun, a tremendous amount of fun," Zuzzio said of the season that culminated in the championship run. "It was chilling, very chilling. I just felt lucky to be around a group of kids like that."
The feeling was mutual. Two players on the team, Pattie Shay and Michelle (Craig) Kirk, live in Baldwin and continue to sing praises about Zuzzio. There's no doubt to them that it was the coach that made the difference and started the tradition-rich program at BHS.
"I feel like Ted Zuzzio got it going," said Shay. "He is Baldwin High School girls basketball. That's no disrespect to the current coach. Coach Zuzzio taught us so much and inspired us to play."
"We played our hearts out and had a good leader in Ted Zuzzio," said Kirk. "It was awesome."
There were a lot of words like that to describe the title game and that season in general. The team finished with a 23-2 record, but it was no cake walk.
"We had a really rough sub-state, with Aquinas and Sumner who were both a lot bigger schools than us and both had Division I players on their teams," said Zuzzio. "Both of those games were decided by a point. We had to really battle to get to state.
"You can call it a team of destiny," he said. "You've got to be lucky and I guess we had a lot that year."
The title game wasn't decided until Sharon Johnson hit a pair of free throws with 20 seconds left for a 37-34 lead. Johnson then came up with a steal which eventually resulted in a free throw for Shay that sealed the championship.
"As for the game, I just remember it as a nail-biter," said Kirk. "We didn't know until the very end if we were going to win."
"Everyone stepped up and played and hit free throws," said Zuzzio.
Thoughts of the wildness of the title game are still vivid for the team.
"It was wonderful," said Shay. "The largeness of it. Being in that arena with all those people. It was mind boggling. I get goose bumps just thinking about it."
But what does Shay remember most?
"I didn't foul out," she said with a laugh. "It was just, holy cow, they had the trophy right there where we could see it. We'll all stare at the trophy and we'd say 'we want that.' It was a hard game. We came together. Then there were those free throws at the end."
Another part of the experience they all remember is the fan support.
"I remember the fans that were there," said Shay. "It seemed like everyone from Baldwin was there."
That and the "team theme" is what sticks with Zuzzio.
"Basically, the bottom line was we had some athletic kids," he said. "Our top eight or nine kids were just all-around good athletes. I think what Baldwin was blessed with and still is was great support from the parents and the town."
It was also a special time for Baldwin athletics that year. Earlier, the football team had won the Class 4A title. Zuzzio was an assistant coach for that.
"That was a bonefide great year to be a coach in Baldwin," he said.
What also sticks out to him after all these years was the celebration that took place on the court afterwards. It continued until the security personnel moved the team to the north end of the court so the boys title game could be played.
"The hardest thing to do was get us off the court," said Zuzzio. "We didn't want to leave the court. It was a tremendous feeling."