Bulldogs are a suprise
By Jimmy Gillispie
Signal Staff Writer
The Baldwin High School boys basketball team is off to a .500 start in its first season with head coach Heath Cooper, despite committing 22.5 turnovers a game.
The Bulldogs currently sit at 2-2 after defeating Turner High School to place third in the Paola Tournament.
"We are getting better almost daily," Cooper said. "We could easily be 3-1, and if we cut our dang turnovers down we could maybe be undefeated. We are turning the ball over way too much. And it's dumb turnovers, too."
Sophomore Blake Wieden said the team is having to come from behind in games, because of the turnovers.
"In the games that we have lost, we have beat ourselves," Wieden said. "We have had a tendency to turn the ball over in the first half and then in the second half we are playing catch up."
Junior Ryan Jorgensen said the Bulldogs have improved since their first game against Santa Fe Trail.
"I feel we've played a lot better than we have the first few games," Jorgensen said. "Every practice we improve and we keep getting better the more we play as a team."
Cooper also said the team is starting to show signs of improvement, because of the effort the boys give each day.
"We're turning the corner and I tell these guys that instead of just working hard, because they all work hard, we are starting to be competitive," he said. "We are competing instead of working hard, and there is a difference between the two. We're coming along here. It's baby steps, but we're coming along."
Cooper also said that because the team works so hard, it has made the coaches jobs and transitions into the program simpler.
"The biggest thing is these guys just work their butts off," Cooper said. "It's made the transition of a first-year program a lot easier. We're finally starting to play at a high level. Our pressure defenses are starting to come along."
The Bulldogs haven't struggled much on the offensive side, when it comes to shooting this season. They are averaging 59 percent from inside the arc, 27 percent from three-point range and 64 percent from the free throw line.
"We don't have a lot of size, so we need to shoot well," Wieden said.
Jorgensen said the team doesn't have any problems with stamina during games, because of the amount of running they do in practice.
"Coach runs us to death," Jorgensen said. "Every practice, he will find a reason for us to run, so we are in shape."
But Baldwin have been hurt by a couple of costly injuries. Senior Austin Inzer suffered a severely sprained ankle and practiced on Monday for the first time in about three weeks. Cooper said he is about 90 percent right now.
Junior Jeremy Wright is still recovering from the broken leg he suffered near the end of the football season. Cooper said they are shooting for Wright to return Feb. 1.
"I think he's coming along, but whenever you have a broken bone in your leg, the healing takes so long," Cooper said. "He's a good athlete. I think his body will heal faster than a normal guy."
The Bulldogs start practice again on Tuesday, as they prepare for their home opener against Ottawa High School at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 4.
Jorgensen said he is excited to have a home game, but knows they have to play well against an up-tempo Ottawa team.
"We're playing in front of the home crowd, so we want to keep them happy," Jorgensen said. "Plus ,Ottawa just lost like 108-98. They play fast, so hopefully we can catch up with them."
Cooper said the game will be a big game for Baldwin, because they are starting to play better as a team.
"Mainly because they're pretty good, and it's our first home game," Cooper said of why the game is significant. "I think it's a really important game. If we don't win, it's not going to kill our season. But coming home against a good team, and probably with a big crowd, it's a big game for us."