Boys ‘compete,’ advance in BIT
For the first time since 2002, the Baldwin High School boys basketball team won its first-round game of the Baldwin Invitational Tournament.
Baldwin was victorious over Frontier League opponent Anderson County 52-49 on Tuesday night, improving BHS's record to 3-5.
"Tonight is the first game we competed," coach Heath Cooper said. "I mean flat-out competed. It was ugly, but we competed. I really felt that we outplayed them in hustling and playing hard."
Baldwin was led by junior Jeremy Wright, who put up 21 points in the Bulldogs' victory.
"It was a total team effort," Wright said. "We had a lot of energy and we competed really hard. We've been told all week we play hard, but it feels good to compete and win."
Wright said he was glad to get the win in the tourney opener, because it was the first since he has been at Baldwin.
"To finally get a first-round win feels good," Wright said. "We are not used to that, but to get in the winner's bracket is nice."
Both teams started the game slow as the first quarter ended in a 7-7 tie. But both squads stepped up the offense in the second quarter.
Baldwin scored eight points in the first 1:45 of the quarter, while Anderson County put up seven in just over two minutes. Baldwin went into halftime leading 26-23.
"In the first half we came out really good," junior Aaron Hannon said. "Towards the end, they tried to come back, and we held the lead. We held them back."
Cooper said the team played well in the first half, which was due to the home crowd. He also said that Wright has fully recovered from his broken leg he suffered in football.
"I think the home court helped us out a lot," Cooper said. "Jeremy Wright was a big reason too. I felt like he played at 100 percent, rather than the 75 or 80 percent he's been used to."
Baldwin built its lead to eight points midway through the third quarter, only to see it lost. Anderson County took the lead with 1:14 left in the quarter and headed into the final quarter leading 39-37.
Wright scored Baldwin's first eight points of the fourth quarter, giving Baldwin a 45-40 lead. Baldwin maintained the lead for the remainder of the game, with the help of some big plays from sophomore Sam Scott.
"Sam Scott played his butt off and got us some rebounds and some defensive stops," Cooper said.
Baldwin led 49-47 with 1:17 remaining when Hannon stepped up to the free throw line. Hannon missed both shots, but Scott grabbed the offensive rebound. Scott then made a lay-up with 40 seconds left to build the lead to four points.
On the next possession by Anderson County, Scott grabbed the defensive rebound and made Baldwin's final point on a free throw.
"We stepped up our intensity," Scott said. "We just played our style of game."
Baldwin made 20 of 34 attempts from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs were 19 of 28, before missing five of their final six.
"At the end, we started missing some," Hannon said of the free throws. "They were getting in our heads, because they were getting kind of out of control."
Wright said the team picked up its play in the second half, because of what it had practiced the days before.
"We've worked all week on penetrating and kicking out to guards," Wright said. "We did a good job of rebounding too. It was all about our will. All we are worried about right now is competing."
Cooper credits part of the victory to the team's defense, which slowed down Anderson County sophomore Josh Sutton.
"One of the big reasons was I felt we fronted Sutton pretty good," Cooper said. "Sam Scott did an excellent job down low and so did our other guys in that zone. That's the difference to me right there."
On Friday night, Baldwin fell to Turner 73-58 in Kansas City, Kan. Baldwin may get a chance to play Turner for the third time this season in either the championship or third-place game in the BIT. Baldwin beat Turner 76-70 on Dec. 10 in the Paola Tournament, but Turner had three ineligible players for that game.
Baldwin will play Lincoln Prep, a Kansas City, Mo., team, in the semifinals of the BIT at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in the junior High gym. The other semifinal game is between Turner and Augusta at 6 p.m. in the same gym.
"I am so fired up for this game," Cooper said. "I have been looking forward to this since I knew last summer Lincoln Prep was in the tournament, because I knew they were the best team in the tournament. That's why we play the games. It's going to be a great opportunity for our guys, and I think it's going to be a great game."
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