BHS girls win third Top Gun title
By Jimmy Gillispie
Signal Sports Writer
The Baldwin High School girls basketball team won its third straight Top Gun Tournament by defeating rival Eudora High School 63-52 on Saturday in Wellsville.
"It's a good tradition to get going," senior Erica Ogle said of the three-peat. "It's a good thing for our team to win it three years in a row."
The Bulldogs received the No. 1 seed in the tourney and thus had a bye in the first round, because there were only seven teams in the tourney.
"That was the hardest thing, because we hadn't played for 10 days," senior Emily Brown said of the bye. "Some teams would love to have that, but for us, we just want to play."
Despite the bye, the Bulldogs came out and played well enough in their two games to win the tourney for its third time.
"It's awesome to win it three years in a row," Brown said. "We had to work hard to win that. It's a tribute to our program to do that. There were a bunch of quality teams in it."
Both Baldwin and Eudora battled throughout the entire game, with each team's leading scorer playing incredible games. Brown put up 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds. But she was outdone by Eudora's senior Lauren Kracl, who scored 33 points in the losing effort.
"I thought it was a well played game on both sides," coach Eric Toot said of the Eudora game. "We had great intensity. We couldn't stop Lauren Kracl."
Brown fought through the flu after missing school on Friday because of her illness. Although she was ill, Brown knew she had to do all she could to help her team win.
"I knew Lauren was going to take over the game, so I wanted to do everything I could to offset that," Brown said. "I didn't want to lose on my account."
Early in the game, Baldwin had to fight through some foul trouble, but its bench players came in and stepped up.
"One of our biggest problems was letting them get to the line," Toot said. "We had to overcome foul trouble. Kalie (Harris) hurt us more than anyone, because she is so important to what we do."
Baldwin held a nine-point lead going into the fourth quarter, but would expand it to 14 with a three-point play by senior Anna Gillispie and a basket by Brown.
Both Gillispie and Brown would hit most of their free throws down the stretch to give Baldwin the victory and championship.
"Shooting them a lot in practice helps a lot, but us seniors have more experience and can step up and make them," Gillispie said.
Toot said the team was excited to win the tournament, but it's a bit different each year.
"They were excited, but they had been through this before," Toot said. "It's never a repeat, because it's a different team every year."
Toot also said he was proud of the way the whole team played, but a few players in particular.
"Erica Ogle came in and scored seven points," Toot said. "She hit a big 3 when they were making a run."
Brown led the team with 26 points and made 10 of 13 from the free throw line. Gillispie and senior Kari Garrison each scored 10 points. Gillispie made eight of nine from the stripe. Senior Jamie Lawrenz added six points, but grabbed 14 rebounds.
Garrison sank two 3-pointers against Eudora, making her the all-time 3-point leader at Baldwin. She passes Ann Martin, who held the record with 65.
"She's just been unbelievable in the improvement she's made in the last two years," Toot said. "This year people are guarding her because they know about her, but she's still able to get open because she is able to get to the hole."
Before Baldwin could win the championship, the Bulldogs had to defeat St.Marys in the semifinal round. The Bulldogs won in a closely contested battle, 58-46, to advance to play Eudora.
"We needed that kind of game," Brown said. "We had to work hard to get through that game. It prepared us for the Eudora game."
The Bulldogs led 18-17 after the first quarter, but St. Marys took the lead in the second quarter due to good shooting.
"They were on fire in the first half," Toot said of St. Marys. "We had hands in their faces and they kept hitting their shots. They made a 3 right before half to gain momentum."
Baldwin went into halftime trailing 28-26, but came out in the third quarter and outscored its opponent 18-7.
"In the second half, we came down and took a good shot almost every time down," Toot said. "Execution was great in the second half."
Baldwin travels to Prairie View to play at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Then the Bulldogs play a rematch against Eudora on Feb. 13 at home for King and Queen of Courts night.