Bulldogs focus on Ottawa over break
A 3-1 record and an improved defense have the Baldwin High School boys' basketball team feeling confident while still knowing it must focus on its next opponent after the break.
The Bulldogs play Jan. 3 at Ottawa in a Frontier League game that has drawn the focus of the entire Christmas break practices.
"We are really trying to focus a lot on getting ready for Ottawa," head coach Heath Cooper said. "But we are also trying to reinforce the fundamentals we have been doing all year."
Cooper knows how good Ottawa is and what makes the Cyclones such a tough opponent for any team.
"They are big on their full-court press, so we have been working a lot on that," Cooper said. "They are very talented. I think they are the most talented team in the league. Going into their place will be a tough thing for us."
Senior Jeremy Wright agreed with Cooper about the pressure the Cyclones put on their opponents.
"We have been working all week on their press, because we know they get up in your face," Wright said. "We are going to come after them."
Before the Bulldogs can give full attention to Ottawa, they must improve on the small things over break.
"We need to work on limiting our turnovers and mental mistakes, while making more of our shots," junior Blake Wieden said.
The Bulldogs sit at 3-1 after defeating Santa Fe Trail 72-50, Maranatha 58-40 and Bishop Ward 79-63. Their only loss was to Eudora, 59-49, in the Cardinal Invitational.
Cooper likes where his team currently is, but knows that one loss hurts a little.
"We are off to a really good start and I couldn't be more happy with where we are at," Cooper said. "Obviously we would like to get that one loss back from Eudora."
Wieden also likes how the first month of the season has gone, excluding the loss to Eudora.
"So far, the season is going pretty good," Wieden said. "We were disappointed with our loss, because we can do better. But we are playing well."
The Bulldogs are also enjoying the improvements from where this team was a year ago.
"I think we are a lot further than we were last year," Wright said. "We have improved a lot and we play together as a team, so we are all enjoying ourselves."
Cooper believes the Bulldogs' defense might be the most improved aspect of the game.
"We have played significantly better than last year," Cooper said. "Last year we gave up 67 points a game and this year only 53. I still think there are some minor adjustments we can make to make us better."
The thought of holding opponents' scores in the 50 range makes Wright believe the team will be successful.
"We have been playing great half court defense," Wright said. "If we can keep the other team around the 50s, we have a great shot at winning."
One reason for the improved play might be because of the six seniors that lead the Bulldogs. Cooper has enjoyed how they have stepped up and taken over the team.
"It's been huge," Cooper said of the senior leadership. "Our six seniors have been phenomenal. They pick guys up during adversity in games and at practice. It's been really refreshing to see the senior leadership this year."
Cooper also knows the week of practice before Ottawa will be important for the rest of the season.
"I think the Bishop Ward game was a key win for us," Cooper said. "It allowed us to have a really positive mental approach coming into these practices, which I think are the most important practices of the year."
The Bulldogs will be continuing to work on their defense and some fundamentals over the break.
"We are again focusing a great deal on defense," Cooper said. "We feel like we can score. I don't think that's a big problem for us. If we want to win, we have to defend."
Baldwin's next game is at 8 p.m. Jan. 3 at Ottawa.